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.
Image credit: Wikimedia