District 2 Candidate Forum March 6 in St. Johns

The City Charter Reform voters approved in 2022 will soon take effect. It creates four separate city districts. North and Northeast Portland comprise District 2 where voters will elect three councilors as representatives. This will be a unique election in the city’s history to date. The North Peninsula Review is hosting a District 2 candidate forum on March 6, 2024 in order to offer residents an opportunity to get to know the candidates better.

March 6 District 2 Candidate Forum details

Fourteen candidates have entered the race for the District 2 seats so far including current Commissioner Dan Ryan. Ryan and Tiffani Penson joined the race too close to the newspaper deadline to be included in this article. Candidates can formally file June 5 – August 27.

These questions were posed to each of 12 candidates:

  1. What neighborhood do you live in?
  2. Do you have a preferred contact and website?
  3. What is your work or experience?
  4. Why are you running?
  5. Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Safe Rest Village?
  6. Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool?

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. (some responses have been edited for length)

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James Armstrong District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Woodlawn

Website: https://www.armstrongforpdx.com

Job/Experience: My wife and I own and operate three eye care clinics in N and NE Portland, including Cathedral Eye Care in St. Johns. My daily job involves managing our 30 employees, overseeing the finances, and being available for a multitude of tasks.

I work a portion of time in my original career as a forensic accountant. As a director for the firm Development Specialists, Inc (DSI), I work with a small team based out of Los Angeles that investigates and manages complex financial issues and fraud schemes.

Why are you running?  I love Portland, and I’m especially drawn to our local neighborhoods. We need to provide effective services to help our struggling community members, while also restoring accountability to assist small businesses that face increases in crime and theft. I believe our city can maintain our progressive ideals, while also working to improve community livability.

I am optimistic that with the transition to districted representation, Portland will be guided by local leaders with better proximity to our problems. My involvement growing small businesses, along with advocating for the Alberta and St. Johns business districts, will provide the council with an experienced hand on turning plans into action.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I had the opportunity to join the St. Johns District Manager on a Zoom call with representatives from the mayor’s office to discuss the RV site near Columbia. I expressed many of the concerns that we were hearing from the neighbors. As planned, this site will provide a designated safe space for RV campers that are also willing to adhere to strict camp rules regarding guests and substance use. To that end, I’m optimistic that this camp will provide a valuable service. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will reduce the unsanctioned RV sites that the community is most concerned with.

The Safe Rest Village model is a band-aid for the crisis on our streets. To the extent that they can provide safe and clean shelter, support services, and reduce instances of street camping, they are a positive. However, the cost associated with running these camps, and the limited capacity for moving individuals in need of support through the system, make them only a short-term solution to our crisis.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I have concerns that the November 2024 election is not the appropriate time to propose infrastructure bonds of that size. Voters in Portland, including myself, feel very strongly that our current system of commissioner led bureaus has not been working. Siloed work environments, politics between commissioners, and the general lack of a city-wide strategic plan have set us down the path that we currently find ourselves. The city should have the opportunity to proceed with the change in government structure, onboard the newcity management first.

With regard to the Columbia Park pool, I would need to understand more about the cost and timeline needed to restore operations. Overall, I believe the city has failed to perform basic upkeep on our parks system, which eventually led to the pool closure. I would support policy to free up SDC money for use on maintenance. There may be a scenario where maintaining the Columbia Pool with re-allocated funds would provide the community with indoor pool access prior to 2030.

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Reuben Berlin District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Beaumont-Wilshire

Website and contact: www.reubenberlin.com

Job/Experience: After graduating from the University of Oregon, I worked with local non-profit organizations as a representative payee, housing case manager, and family case manager. In these roles, I provided direct assistance to individuals and families facing houselessness, mental health, addiction, and domestic violence. I worked in these roles from 2001 through late 2007.

I joined U.S. Bank in 2014. Throughout my career I am proud to say I have helped hundreds of individuals and families navigate the purchase and financing of their homes, often finding opportunities for first-time home buyers in Portland’s difficult housing market.

Working for U.S. Bank has allowed me to work with many individuals, businesses, and organizations throughout North and Northeast Portland.

Why are you running? My focus is on re-establishing the livability of our city. The campaign will be centered on restoring public safety, partnering with mental health services, and finding solutions that provide for the economic vitality of Portland. This can be done by building collaborations with local government, businesses, community organizations, and neighborhoods.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? In short, yes, I do believe these can provide short and medium-term solutions to Portland’s housing, mental health, and public safety concerns. These are not permanent solutions as to how the city, county, or state should house those currently in need.

Long-term solutions will require a dedicated review and new policies. The upcoming Portland City Council will need to address the needs of citizens with disabilities, facing addiction, or joblessness so they can find permanent income and housing.

My immediate concerns are about management. I would ask how responsive a California-based company is to the needs and requirements of not only the current/future residents but to the nearby neighborhoods. How well can they build local partnerships? The outsourcing of management raises questions of trust and how much of our local funds are leaving Portland. I am currently discussing housing, mental health, and drug recovery with community members to find a way forward.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I know having swimming pool back in North Portland is important and I support getting a pool up and running as soon as possible. There will need to be targeted funding and community support to bring a swimming pool back to North Portland. 

As to the $800 million Parks and Fire Infrastructure Bond measure, the only honest answer I can see is that there has not been enough information presented to speak to how the measure will be funded. This bond could take funding away from schools, police, library, or other needs.

Would this be an additional tax burden of $200 to $400 per household on average? What are we getting for those additional funds? Are there ways to mitigate these costs and still provide full service?

A complete review of the current budget will need to be completed by the new Portland City Council as to how we can ensure the vitality of our city without squeezing funds out of one program to fund another.

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Alan Blake District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Lloyd District

Job/Experience: I have worked numerous jobs over the years and I like to think of myself as a career taxpayer.

Why are you running? I’m running for office because I feel our seniors are not being prioritized and to end senior citizen homelessness.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I can’t give an answer if I support the funding for the Peninsula Safe Rest Village. I would like to know more about this.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I would also like to know more about the proposed 800 million dollar Parks and Fire infrastructure Bond measure. I tend to vote for Fire and Parks.

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David Burnell District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Woodlawn

Website and contact: davidforportland.com davidforportland@gmail.com

Job/Experience: Advisory board member for City Team Portland, 1st co-chair of the Portland Government Transition Advisory Committee; Contributing Author to the Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan; 1st co-chair to the Crisis Systems Advisory Work Group that oversaw the 988 hot-line rollout in Oregon; Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and Qualified Mental Health Associate Registrant for Cascadia Behavioral Health; and Precinct Committee Person for the Multnomah County Democratic Party.

Why are you running? To make the necessary positive changes needed to get this city back on track, it will take a team of people who come from diverse backgrounds with diverse expertise and the ability to know when to listen, lead, and act. One of the biggest problems Portland has faced with its city leaders is the paternalistic attitude of “trust us, we will fix it,” i nstead of reaching out and listening to the local individual communities that are being directly impacted by the day-to-day decisions made at City Hall. 

As a person who has firsthand experience leading, listening, and working directly with the community I will be an excellent member of Portland City Council. 

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I will continue to support the RV Homeless camp until a more suitable site is found.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I do support the 800 million Parks and Bond Measure. I would use this measure as an opportunity to give the Portland Street Response a more robust foundation to work with and give it the ability to expand on the vital work that it provides our city.

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Mariah Hudson District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Alameda

Contact: Mariahforpdx@gmail.com

Job/Experience: Currently senior healthcare communicator at OHSU, previously sustainability officer at San Diego State University; in higher education for 20 years. 

Why are you running? To help clean up our city, public safety and improve affordability so that working families like mine, and the next generation, can thrive here. As a working mom with a 1st and 7th grader in Portland Public Schools, creating a safe and well-run city is a personal mission. Collaborating with neighbors as chair of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods battling pollution, launching shelters and promoting affordable housing, has shown me the importance of aligning city policies with community priorities. Curtailing access to hard drugs fueling Portland’s addiction crisis and enhancing Street Response to aid recovery is a top priority.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? Yes, both show success and are worthy of support.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? Yes on both.

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Debbie Kitchin District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Sullivan’s Gulch

Website and contact:  www.electdebbiekitchin.comhello@electdebbiekitchin.com

Job/Experience: I have owned a small business with my husband for 30 years. We are residential and commercial remodeling and renovation contractors. We currently have 15 employees. Prior to that, I was a regional economist, working for two different government agencies for a total of 18 years. I have been a small business advocate active in economic development and community development. I have worked to promote economic growth and prosperity for neighborhoods, small businesses and communities of color.

Why are you running? Portland is at a turning point. We desperately need to have a city government that works and that works for everyone. I am committed to working with all sides of the table to move our city forward. We need coordinated, effective responses to the multiple crises we are facing. Our City needs to work with the County and the state legislature and Governor to build a better Portland. I am a collaborator and bridge builder.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I have more questions than answers at this time about these proposed solutions. It is very important that we use the best evidence and data to make decisions about solutions for working with our houseless neighbors. I have concerns about the management of safe rest villages and whether they are effective solutions for assisting people to recover from the trauma of homelessness. Ultimately, we need to be working on developing solutions to build more affordable housing, We need to develop shelter options, transitional housing, support services and more long-term housing, combined with preventive measures that keep people in housing. 

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I am not in favor of adding new taxes at this time. Our City needs to show that it can spend the revenues from current taxes effectively and produce better results with the revenues it has to spend.

Implementing the new form of government by bringing bureaus under the management of a professional city administrator will, in time, lead to a better allocation of resources and more effective use of City funds. 

We need to support and maintain recreational facilities such as Columbia Pool in an equitable way. It is clear when looking around the City that historically some areas have had better access to facilities than others. I am committed to making sure that residents in our District are treated equitably in terms of access to recreational facilities.

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Marc Koller District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Hayden Island

Contact: marc@marckoller4portland.com

Job/Experience: Retired from global corporate work at director level in organizational development and customer education.

Why are you running?  I am running for City Council to apply my experience and knowledge of working with large complex organizations, to find workable solutions to our most pressing problems. I am the only candidate focused on the specific challenges of seniors and the disabled living on a fixed income.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? Yes, as it is owned by the city and as far as I know Urban Alchemy that manages other shelter sites should be able to do a good job.  The plan does include extended community involvement. I know that the St Johns Neighborhood Association is generally supportive with some concerns.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? The parks and fire bond issue is addressing an important need. Sadly the burden always seems to fall on the homeowners.  It would likely be approved by the voters.  I would approve if there was a way to reduce some of the existing homeowner tax burden. And yes it should Include restoration of the Columbia Pool.  It always seems that the neighborhoods get short-changed in favor of more visible Downtown Projects. 

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John Middleton District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Concordia

Contact: john@middletonforportland.com

Job/Experience: For the past 10 years, head of a business-to-business courier service; board member of Community Warehouse; volunteer as Big Brother/Big Sister program, and helping neighbors.

Why are you running?  I moved to Portland at 12 and grew up here; it was a great city to grow up in. Now my children are out of the house. I want to help all the neighborhoods. Portland has all the resources it needs to resolve its current issues. I want to build a foundation of a city representative of all. My father told me wisdom = listen and collaborate.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I do not believe Portland has a comprehensive plan to address the issue of the unhoused or people taking residence in RV’s and vehicles.

The two models mentioned, as they are set up currently, are not something I support now nor could I in the future.  I believe in a housing first model with overarching supportive services.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? Good project, needs support but the city needs to audit itself before it asks for more money from taxpayers. Yes to Columbia Pool funding.

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Chris Olson District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Sullivan’s Gulch

Website, contact, social media: https://www.olsonforpdx.com, chris@olsonforpdx.com, Social (FB, Instagram, X, TikTok): @olsonforpdx

Job/Experience: I have ten years of experience in the non-profit sector. I currently work as a communications specialist for the Neighborhood Health Center, a nonprofit health facility serving low-income and at-risk patients in the Portland area. I’ve also worked on progressive voter registration initiatives and local campaigns

Why are you running?  Our city has been through challenging times, but I see a lot of good in its people. Portland needs to be a city that works for everyone. I want to create opportunities for all Portlanders to succeed. We need authentic and empathetic leadership to turn this city around.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? No, because this is not the best solution for the housing and homelessness crisis. I also don’t support the city’s partnership with Urban Alchemy, who is being sued for multiple reasons in California. We need a better plan. The first steps need to be. 

  • Increase funding to the Portland Street Response to have non-violent response to drug use, mental health, and homelessness. 
  • Provide services to houseless where they live (Hygiene, trash pick-up, and food.) This will stabilize their lives, and keep our streets clean.
  • Increase the number of sobering centers and get homeless directly into addiction programs.
  • Duplicate LA’s Inside Safe initiative – with the change of putting homeless directly into permanent housing. 
  • Build more high density housing.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? Yes. I am for the bond, and I want it to put money toward restoring the Columbia Pool. It is a shame that our city leaders closed the pool without thinking about how North Portlanders would get swimming access. 

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Brooklyn Sherman District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: St. Johns

Website and contact: http://www.shermanforportland.com, brooklyn.shermanforportland@gmail.com 

Job/Experience: I work for Portland Public Schools as a Special Ed. school bus driver. I also help run my family walking tour business, Slabtown Tours. I graduated from Portland State last year with a BA in Business Management. I have been involved in a few political campaigns as a staffer, volunteer, and candidate.

Why are you running? I grew up in Portland and have been involved in more community groups than the word count will allow me to mention. I want to address the cost of living and work to make sure Portland stays a place where Portlanders can afford to live in.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? As a St. Johns resident who frequents the Columbia Slough and someone who works near Marine Drive, I am more familiar with the area than most. My biggest concern is the fact that the campsite will be next to a toxic slag mount, which I have been informed by local activist Charlotte MacDonald, has still yet to have a soil testing analysis turned into DEQ. If you have ever spent any time in the area like I have, you would know this is not a place friendly for anyone to spend extensive time in. 

Columbia Slough is also right next to the site, which is a sensitive wildlife habitat. What rules will be implemented to prevent harm to the wildlife and how will they be enforced? I would be curious to look into other potential areas that have less of an environmental impact. Additionally, I have concerns with the location of the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village, due to its proximity to houses. 

Wherever they end up being, we need to ensure that there is 24/7 police presence at them to protect both the camp’s residents and the neighbors.

Most importantly, both of these camps are supposedly “temporary”. I think we need to come up with more long-term plans in regards to building public housing and figuring out where these camp’s residents will end up. I can not in good conscience support any untenable solution to a problem this severe without an end goal.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I am a supporter of the bond and the many meaningful things it will provide for the community, including the restoration of the Columbia Pool.

Currently, when it comes to funding towards restoring the Columbia Pool, we have a problem. System Development Charges (SDC), a program run by the city which handles much of the money used for construction in Portland. It does not allow for the restoration of facilities, even if restoration helps keep a community’s history intact, is more environmentally friendly, and can help stimulate the job market more than new construction.

Brooking even did a report titled The Economics of Historic Preservation where they found restoration on average makes six times as many construction jobs as new infrastructure. My point is we will need advocates at City Hall who will care about the preservation of Portland’s first inside pool and as someone who cares about restoration and the maintains of public infrastructure.

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Laura Streib District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Cathedral Park

Website: https://www.laura4pdx.com

Job/Experience: In 2007, I founded and am executive director of Vibe of Portland – an arts and music educational nonprofit that is committed to providing quality access to the arts for youth throughout the Portland metro area. We provide classes, camps, and workshops. 

In 2020 I started a creative consulting business, Aura Creative, that assists creatives and organizations with a wide variety of projects. I am also a current Board member (secretary) of the St. Johns Boosters Business Association and volunteered on the city’s Arts Education and Access Fund committee for 7 years, chairing it for 4.

Why are you running? I am a collaborator, a creative problem solver, and someone who has started two businesses from scratch. The city is in a moment where the vision of Portland does not match the reality. This will take creative problem solving, building relationships, mending broken bridges, and strengthening coalitions with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Most issues are interrelated. To build the economy, we need to have safe walkable streets to encourage commerce, affordable housing to keep people safe in their homes, time for activities in our parks with maintained accessible facilities, infrastructure to keep the power on and the garbage collected, all the while we reinvest in our schools. We need to support creatives and arts organizations.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? I currently do not support the location for the RV homeless site near N. Columbia Boulevard because the location is disconnected and removed from any wrap around services, and is not very accessible for mass transit. A cyclist was killed on that road on September 20th, 2023. Lighting on N. Portland is horrible, there are always potholes that cars are dodging and I do not feel this is a safe space for people to park their RVs and then have to go somewhere for food, services, etc. Walking? Clearly not a very safe option.

I think the Peninsula Safe Rest Village is helping, but I find the planning aspect lacking. The facilities back right up to another neighbor’s house which has caused a lot of friction. It seems the city planning did not involve the people most closely impacted by the location. On the other hand, having the Safe Rest Village has helped keep the whole of the park along the cut from being a giant mess. 

I would support funding for these spaces as a stop gap measure while looking for more permanent solutions to support the current houseless/homeless crisis in our city. I would encourage the city to align and work more closely with Multnomah County and Metro– when we are all collecting the data in the same way, addressing the same problem together, we come up with the best solutions. This is what I would bring to the City Council— collaboration.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I do not support the proposed Parks and Fire Infrastructure Bond measure. Portland has the 2nd highest tax burden in the country – behind New York City. I would like to see Portland’s full budget to find out what is the allocation process, feedback, and suggestions, and see where things could be better aligned with our mission of equity and access. Are there things where we have duplication of services between all the different silos within the city? There was a report as of 1.17.23 that Commissioner Gonzalez was adding a service to the Fire Dept that is essentially doing exactly what Portland Street Response is doing.

Similarly with the Parks – we have crumbling buildings like the now unused Columbia Pool, but last week Commissioner Ryan announced a $15 million investment for a new skate park in downtown. Recently, a  bond was announced because the Parks Bureau has no money. So – which is it? 

I have worked in nonprofits for most of my working life and you work within your means. The City needs to work within its means – and take into account maintenance in addition to new projects.

Regarding restoring the Columbia Park pool – I have seen some ideas about removing the roof and making it a seasonal pool like Pier Park and Peninsula – which would provide a good option for North Portland neighbors while the new aquatic center is built. I would want to look at some cost analysis to see what would be the best use of resources and ensure that the community is represented at the table, sitting beside me.

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Jonathan Tasini District 2 candidate

Neighborhood: Eliot

Website: https://www.jonathantasini.com

Job/Experience: I am the founder and executive director of Just Transition For All, a global organization dedicating to setting a “high bar” for workers who are displaced due to efforts to address climate change (https://justtransitionforall.com/). For the past 40 years, I’ve run organizations, and been an organizational and communications strategist, almost exclusively devoted to workers’ rights and unions. I was president of the National Writers Union for 13 years, for example.  

Why are you running? Virtually every major issue we confront—from houselessness to addiction—cannot be solved unless people have more money in their pockets. The metro minimum wage in our city is $15.45-an-hour. Which means that a person working 52 weeks a year, 40 hours a week, with no vacation, would earn a gross income of $32,136. That is LESS THAN the federal poverty level for a family of four. I will propose a significant hike in the city’s minimum wage.

Second, grand rhetoric isn’t enough. From talking to scores of voters, the one unifying theme I hear: they want competent members of the City Council who have a record of getting things done, who possess actual skills.

Do you support continued funding for the planned RV homeless camp at 10505 N. Portland Rd., and the Peninsula Crossing Trail Safe Rest Village? Yes, I do. I understand why there are some fixed feelings about the latter project—but people without permanent homes are our neighbors and competently run sites, with clear rules, will benefit the community. I think that both efforts should be one piece of a broad approach to the housing crisis, which needs to include raising peoples’ wages so they can bring home enough money to afford long-term housing and a robust affordable housing plan. My more detailed philosophy on these issues that can be found on my campaign site.

Do you support the proposed $800 million Parks and Fire infrastructure bond measure and, if so, putting funds toward restoring Columbia Pool? I make it a habit—which I will hold to as a member of the City Council—to read particulars of any proposal before opining or offering support. I am reserving comment until the bond proposal details are further fleshed out. In general, I am entirely supportive of robust funding for our parks and recreation facilities, and our fire service However, bond or no bond, I am also 100 percent supportive of securing funds to restore the Columbia Park pool, which has been a vital resource for generations of users especially for underserved communities.

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