On March 20, I attended the city council meeting for the vote on the bond to repair four of the city’s elementary schools: Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche.

For hours, Portlanders spoke passionately about the shameful condition of our schools and their frustration at how city leaders had passed the buck all these years.

At the end of the night, sadly, three councilors still voted no, insisting that their alternative plan cutting out the two schools in the worst condition – Reiche and Longfellow – go on the ballot as well.

As this played out, I felt a disappointing sense of deja vu.

In 2013, I sat in that same room and listened to hours of public testimony against a plan by the city council to sell Congress Square Park so it could be developed into a one-story hotel conference room.

But people wanted Congress Square Park revived, not sold, and, like with the schools, we lined up into the wee hours, only to be dumbstruck that our impassioned and reasoned arguments fell on deaf ears.

After running the successful grass-roots ballot campaign to stop the sale and establish new protections for Portland’s parks, I then led Friends of Congress Square Park’s efforts to raise private funding to turn the park into the gem that it always should have been.

The community response has been tremendous. Portlanders clearly want engaging public open spaces.

Today, some councilors who voted to sell the park say they regret their votes.

But I wonder, why was it so hard for those councilors to listen in the first place? Why does the leadership on so many issues have to come from outside the council? And why do people so often have to make these decisions ourselves at the ballot box?

It’s not just schools and parks. Take housing for example. We all have witnessed Portland’s development boom over the past decade, and the corresponding rise in property values and rents.

All this new investment has created the opportunity to remake Portland into a livable, walkable city with good public transit, thriving public open spaces, and excellent schools.

But instead the council has simply let development happen without hearing the vision of the city we want.

Meanwhile, middle class Portlanders are squeezed by skyrocketing rents. The very people who made Portland an attractive place to live, work and visit – including artists, businesses, and working people – are being priced out of the city.

So last year the mayor created a special committee to tackle the housing issue and asked one of our most seasoned councilors to chair it. The result?

A pamphlet explaining renters’ slim legal rights and a meager 30-day increase in notice required for rent increases.

On so many issues it’s the same dynamic.

Banning pesticides. Promoting solar energy. Eliminating tax breaks for developers with no expectations. Selling city land below market value. Standing up for our immigrant neighbors. Addressing the opioid crisis.

Providing property tax relief for seniors on fixed incomes. On these and many other issues there has been a distinct lack of leadership and vision.

Portland is going through a time of rapid change. For those of us who have lived in the city for decades, that change can cause nostalgia – but it’s also created opportunities to improve life in the city.

I’m gratified that even city councilors who once voted to sell Congress Square Park can now see its value and potential.

And I’m glad that because of yet another massive organizing effort, the public will finally get to vote in November on a $64 million bond to fix our schools.

But it shouldn’t be so hard. As we go forward with the debate over fixing our schools, I urge the council to start listening to the people of Portland.

We’re ready for action, and we can no longer afford to dream small and delay.

Correction: This article was updated at 9:39 a.m. on April 29 to correct the spelling of the author’s name.