The September 2015 issue of the NW Examiner details this summer’s dramatic decline of the North Park Blocks.
Click here for PDF of article
Our lovely park has become home to vagrants who openly do drugs, have sex, fights and regularly urinate and defecate in public. … This is affecting my business and more importantly, Portland’s prosperity in the long run.” ~ Michelle Cardinal, CEO of the R2C ad agency located on the North Park Blocks.
“Everyone I speak to is talking about the city being out of control… It’s very scary what happening to the city right now … younger ‘road warriors’ with aggressive, unleashed dogs began taking over public spaces. I have so much compassion of the truly homeless people, but they are not the problem.” ~ Stan Penkin, co-founder of Friendly Steers and a member of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association (PDNA) Livability Committee.
A North Park Block neighbor sent the following email to Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz:
Thank you for the work you do for the city.
I write because I heard about the Sept 1st task force meeting called by Mayor Hales regarding the conditions in the North Park Blocks. You stayed for only 20 minutes, but before you departed early you declared, “The parks are for everyone,” to a group of people brainstorming responsible responses to public sex, used hypodermic needles, menacing, off-leash dog attacks and other illegal and scary acts being committed with increasing frequency in Portland parks.
Attendees inferred that you are not too concerned whether homeless people and housed-but-antisocial people comply with the law. They interpreted your comment as, at best, acquiescence to the status quo or, at worst, siding with perpetrators over victims.
The parks ARE for everyone.
“Everyone” should include children who should not see people f***ing in the North Park Blocks.
“Everyone” should include dog owners who don’t want to choose between watching their beloved pet bleed out or getting bitten themselves.
“Everyone” should include people playing Frisbee who do not want to make a diving catch onto a needle.
“Everyone” should include residents, shoppers, workers and tourists who do not want to be menaced and sometimes assaulted by aggressive and / or mentally ill people.
I hope you and other leaders develop some empathy for the non-homeless and support those who are working to improve downtown livability for all. Until the city acts to slow, stop and reverse the downward spiral that we witness every day, then most “everyone” will avoid parks that we have abandoned to lawlessness. We don’t need another commissioned study or another artistic logo or another ten-year plan. We know what works for the long term. In the short term, please enforce the law.
I am one of the many concerned citizens actively trying to clean up the North Park Blocks of illegal activities. I am writing to you both directly since I haven’t been able to attend the meetings led by Michelle Cardinal of R2C Group.
I am in a smaller minority within this committed group whose personal life & financial livelihood has been effected on a daily basis by the criminal element plaguing the North Park Blocks. I reside in the neighborhood and also own a business nearly. I have seen first-hand, 24/7 the rapid decline of the area this past summer.
After hearing about Mayor Hales meeting this past Tuesday at City Hall, I am mainly concerned with Commissioner Fritz’ nonchalant attitude & comment to our problem stating “the parks are for everyone” then leaving only after staying for 20 minutes. Has Fritz seen the “everyone” that concerns us as residents & business owners? If not, I am attaching pictures again for her education. (See one above)
We are talking about not those unfortunate people that are truly homeless but criminals taking advantage of the system by choice, preying not only on tax-paying citizens & tourists but also on exactly these folks down on their luck trying to simply survive, regain their dignity & recover from their demons.
I find it insulting & read the undertones of Fritz’ comment that insinuates those of us voicing our concerns are simply the “haves” against the “have nots”.
Speaking for myself & my husband, we are deeply aware & concerned for the homeless not only in our neighborhood but citywide. Each year since relocating here, we actively contribute to fundraisers for Central City Concern, Insight, Cascade Aids Project & Junior Achievement because these socially enlightened programs are one of the many wonderful things that inspired us to live in this wonderful city.
I recently read in The Portland Business Journal comments by Tripwire’s retiring CEO, Jim Johnson that sums up things perfectly – “The thing we run the risk on – Portland is a jewel & there are wonderful things in Portland – but we are tolerant of not-so-good behavior”. Portland has rightfully become a destination for national & international tourist because of the natural splendor in the surrounding areas co-existing with urban flare of unique shopping, world-class food & of course beer.
Open Table has just named 7 of Portland’s restaurants in their Top 100 restaurants in the US & among them is Park Kitchen, one of my personal favorites. Recently, I met a lovely couple visiting from Washington, DC shopping neighborhood & I recommended they eat at Park Kitchen to which they replied “we just passed the park & it is very scary during the day, we wouldn’t dream of going there at night for dinner”…my heart sank & I was speechless! How do I defend that when I see the truth in that statement? My heart breaks as a proud business owner trying to survive in an otherwise tough retail environment & also hearing that my fellow business owners have been struggling since the decline of the park in recent months.
If our mayor & city council member doesn’t see the economic implications in ignoring this problem, then I don’t think they deserve the position of leading a city that is growing & gaining worldwide recognition. It is the hard-working businesses & residents of Portland that are paying taxes to fund social programs, upgrade municipal infrastructure & pay city employees salaries.
We need beefed up city police presence in the parks, the park rangers & out-sourced security teams like Pacific Patrol aren’t equipped to deal with the mess invading the area. We will keep up the pressure through television & newspaper media, social media until our needs are addressed. With Emerson School directly impacted by the NPB, the city is setting itself up for a legal nightmare if something tragic happens to a child. One of the lesser but still very dangerous concerns I have been calling the city about over the past few months is travelers vandalizing lamp posts exposing electrical wires to charge their electronic equipment (I have included those images too).
I look forward to hearing from you on this urgent matter, thank you in advance!
Thank you for your walk in the North Park Blocks initiated by the Emerson School this morning. I would like to share with you the events of my day subsequent to your walk.
I had to call Clean & Safe to remove shit that someone smeared on one of our office entryway doors. Our offices face the North Park Blocks.
I watched two guys shoot up sitting on the curb on the park block at Flanders & 8th, took photos (on guy above), called the police immediately and gave Portland Police dispatch complete descriptions of what they were wearing and the fact they have a small red grocery cart and a bike. No one showed up nor has the police dept. called me back. And yes, I told Dispatch I had photos.
Two of my employees watched a guy pull down his pants and take a dump in the park (basketball and bocce ball court block) between Flanders and Glisan.It is my understanding that you intend to walk the Park Blocks again in October. I would encourage you to time your walk later in the morning as illegal activities ramp up during the morning. Your walk this morning at 8:00 a.m. was too early for many of the daily illegal activities to start.
On Sept 1st Mayor Hales hosted a 90 min meeting at City Hall to hear the concerns raised by residents and businesses of Portland’s historic North Park Blocks (NPB). Over two dozen were in attendance including Portland Police, representatives from city and county agencies, outreach program managers, and DAs office. The NPB neighborhood was represented by Michelle Cardinal (R2C Group), Tom Manley (PNCA), Bob Packard (ZGF), Peter Pappas (resident), Jessie Burke (Society Hotel), Edie Rogoway (Rogoway Law), Jean Fleming (resident) and Ed Blackburn (Central City Concern).
Mayor Hales opened the “listening session” and stressed the need to address the immediate concerns of the North Park Blocks while being congruent with larger initiatives to address needs of Portland’s public spaces.
Then Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz lectured the group that “parks are for everyone – the last place for people,” and announced that she would only be able to stay for the first 20 minutes of the scheduled 90 minute meeting.
The North Park Blocks neighbors are disappointed that Park’s Commissioner Fritz could not find the time to listen to our concerns and contribute to the discussion for improving the safety and livability of the city parks that she oversees.
On behalf of the NPB neighbors, Michelle Cardinal presented the following four recommendations:
1. Enforce existing laws/ordinances on books:
a. Drug Free (School) Zones Under Oregon law. Under ORS 475.904 it is a Class A felony “for any person to manufacture or deliver a schedule I, II or III controlled substance within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, secondary or career school attended primarily by minors.” The entire North Park Blocks falls within 1000 ft of the Emerson School
b. Impounding Dangerous Dogs (ORS 609.090) allows the police to impound a dog if it is a “public nuisance,” which includes a dog that is deemed to be a “potentially dangerous dog” further defined as a dog that: . . . “Without provocation and while not on premises from which the keeper may lawfully exclude others, inflicts physical injury on . . . a domestic animal . . . .” ORS 609.035(5).
c. Illegal Camping on Public Property (14A.50.020) – “campsite means any place where bedding, sleeping bag or sleeping matter is placed or established.” Illegal camping. There are no Oregon or federal cases stating that Portland’s “no camping” ordinance is unconstitutional. To the contrary, in Anderson v. City of Portland, No. CIV. 08-1447-AA, 2011 WL 6130598, at *4 (D. Or. Dec. 7, 2011), federal Judge Anna Brown rejected a host of constitutional arguments against the ordinance but noted that the plaintiffs’ issues “cried out for a political rather than a legal solution.” Recently, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong found the same ordinance to be lawful and constitutional.
d. No smoking in Public Parks Ordinance (July 2015)
2. North Park Blocks oversight is not working:
Two entities share responsibility (Park Rangers in park / Clean and Safe surrounding streets). Aggressors know and simply cross the street when confronted. Residents are confused on who to contact. We request return to Clean and Safe jurisdiction. Only two teams of Park Ranger assigned to entire downtown. Their primary mission of Park Rangers is “diplomats.” Security is secondary. Since Park Rangers have assumed responsibility, park security has declined.
3. Neighbors need one point of contact
Who do people call when reporting incidents. The current system is a confusing collection of phone numbers and jurisdictions.
4. Program the Parks
Team with PNCA, Park Blocks neighbors , businesses, and CCC to flood the park with positive events.
The meeting continued with many ideas shared among attendees. Mayor Hales concluded the meeting by noting that while Portland has multi-layered governmental system, that is not an excuse for inaction. He asked that attendees follow up by sending him specific recommendations. He is planning a follow up meeting for this group as well as hosting a meeting of west coast mayors to address common concerns of homelessness. He closed by citing the successful summer at Portland’s Holladay Park which organized a summer of positive programing.