The North Park Blocks group presented to Mayor Hales and other city and county officials at City Hall on Sept 29, 2015. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz was not in attendance.
The North Park Blocks is made up of a proudly diverse community who chose to live and work here. We proudly continue to support many efforts to address homelessness including construction of Bud Clark Center, the CCC Recovery Center, new Transitions Projects and the new Blanchet House.
Our concern this summer was born for the safety of the community due to a highly aggressive criminal element taking hold in our Park and on our streets.
We believe Portland needs to keep our city safe, sanitary and livable for everyone. While also offering compassion, kindness and services to those in need. This includes support for more homeless shelters and low income housing.
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.
Michelle Cardinal the CEO and Co-Founder of R2C Group (and North Park Blocks neighbor) met with Mayor yesterday to bring his attention to our criminal vagrant problem. She presented this slide deck at the meeting.
The meeting with the Mayor went well today – thank you for your support and input in our meeting yesterday. Tom Manley from PNCA and Bob Packard from ZGF were also in attendance (who I encourage to please weigh in on my notes or make additions).
The Mayor brought a large group, I didn’t get cards for all of them, but most notable were: Commander Westport – Portland Police, Josh Alpren – Chief of Staff, Patty Howard – Parks (works for Amanda Fritz, there were also representatives from Clean and Safe and Portland Business Alliance and Eloise Damroch – Executive Director of Regional Arts and Culture Council.
We presented PowerPoint deck (download it here: Crime Safety North Park Blocks 2.1MB pdf )and also a short film my employees made – showing exactly how life on park blocks has gotten unbearable. Film included real life testimonials of harassment, drug dealing, vagrancy etc…and overall lack of livability here (your photos were very helpful, thank you!). The video along with hard photos we left behind really made our point – loud and clear – they all seemed a bit speechless. A picture truly is worth a thousand words…
We clearly and concisely laid out our concerns;
We are now experiencing an unprecedented influx of crime led by gangs of drug dealers as well as abnormally large numbers of mentally ill and drug
Addled vagrants threatening our safety. This is not an indictment of the homeless community, instead an attempt to shine a light on a growing and vibrant criminal element who are smart and organized – taking advantage of the truly indigent and needy.
Big picture – Mayor appears to understand big backlash from constituents coming his way on this issue… Attempting to get ahead of it. Was open and willing to dialogue.
Here’s where we netted out: Some short term wins, to disrupt criminal activity in Park and a seat at the table to dialogue with Mayor on this issue.
Mayor encouraged creation of our Park Blocks Consortium – (I hope you like the name, I made it up to avoid confusion with PBAlliance) and wants to work with us through creation and expansion of Business Improvement Districts (BID) as Jacob suggested last night.
Tom Manley (PNCA) – successfully floated idea of “Programming the Park” – whereby events are scheduled in the park (music, art, festivals) – to discourage vagrancy/criminal activity and encourage resident and tourist use. This would be partially funded by our Business Improvement District as well as other funding from PNCA. Mayor used “Holiday Park case study as excellent example” – and highly supports this.
Three Week “Park Shut down ” – Mayor and Patty Howard (Parks) – Agreed to “shut park down” for three weeks in preparation for Labor Day Art in the Pearl – for reseeding and repairs of irrigation system. This will require complete clearance and fencing around the park.
Three Week – Temporary “High Pedestrian Zone”on our sidewalks (directly across from Park) – which means no camping of sleeping of any kind.
When Park reopens – Irrigation will turn on at 9AM and 12AM – daily.
More Police will be assigned directly to North Park Blocks – Commander Westport – also gave me information regarding the hiring of “ off duty police” service – (which Jacob referred to last night a tool SW Park Blocks are also using). We would do this through our new BID (and our new Park Blocks Consortium).
Next meeting – Mayor would like to have a follow-up meeting in two weeks – to follow up on above game plan and include additional people from our group.
Our request for a “ Drug Impact Area/Exclusion Zone” was shot down – with explanation that District Attorney is no longer prosecuting those cases (due to high failure rate). Failure rate is related to ACLU Claims that these laws unfairly target minorities. (Exclusion Zones were dropped by Potter in 2007 – due to ACLU lobbying – same issue).
Open Town hall/Forum – was also shot down . Mayor wants to have solutions and plan before opening dialogue citywide.
We floated idea of the brand new, unused “Wapato Jail Facility” – to be used for homeless facility . This could be done fairly quickly and provide lots of quality space. This was met with lukewarm enthusiasm – because it is owned by County and too far from city services. Others in the know – think this is great idea. So we should continue to push this.
New Methadone clinic is opening in ChinaTown/Oldtown? Not sure of location. Will impact our area.
Local businesswoman, Michelle Cardinal recently wrote to Portland Mayor Hales to express her concerns over the deteriorating conditions in the city’s historic North Park Blocks.
… Our lovely Park has become home to vagrants who openly do drugs, have sex, fight and regularly urinate and defecate in public. My employees and clients are verbally harassed and physically threatened when walking to and from our office.
Daily we remove belligerent people aggessively blocking the entrance to our building and side step groups of people erecting makeshift cardboard forts on our sidewalks. This is affective my business and more importantly Portland’s prosperity in the long run. …
She has a meeting scheduled with Mayor Hales. We will reach out to her to unify efforts & perhaps participate in that meeting. Click for the fullLetter to Mayor Hales 1MB pdf
Mayor Hales responded to our recent tweet. We look forward to his meeting with Ms Cardinal.
Pulse Gallery is hosting an ‘Awareness Campaign’ for our First Thursday Event (see our attached poster). Over a year ago PM was inspired to paint the North Park Blocks on a 4′ x 4′ canvas but, as you know, the park no longer looks like the beautiful painting. We are inviting people to “trash” the painting on Thursday.
On August 15th at the Everett Station Lofts & Galleries Courtyard Art Show we will offer the opportunity to “clean up” the painting by removing the trash. At that time, we can also present a petition to be signed or ?. Please join us for the Trashing Event.