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KGW Feature: Cleaning Up the North Park Blocks

PORTLAND, Ore. — People who live and work near Portland’s North Park Blocks, north of Burnside Street, are relieved that a massive homeless problem has dwindled. Link to KGW story

Over the summer, men and women took over the park and created multiple problems.

Cardinal KGWMichelle Cardinal watched it develop from her window at work. Cardinal is the co-founder of R2C, a marketing business that sits across from one of the park blocks.

She’s not the sort of person who lets problems get the best of her.

When the issue of homelessness came to her door step, she knew it was time for action.

She took security pictures of people sleeping across the entrance of her company. She gathered up other pictures and stories of people being threatened and chased.

Some of the pictures show men and women putting needles in their arms. Two pictures show different sets of people having sex in public.

“We care deeply, not only about the homeless community,” said Cardinal. She also worries about the underlying causes of homelessness.

And she knew she had to speak out when others would not.

“There are a lot of people in this city afraid to speak about this issue. They don’t want to be labeled as heartless or anti-homeless and I would agree with that. And now, once we’ve started this dialogue, now more and more people are having this conversation,” she said.

Summer of ‘Lawlessness’ Gets Portland’s Attention

Summer of 'lawlessness' gets Portland's attention

From The Oregonian Sept 15, 2015

Cardinal said she’s happy that Hales and City Hall are paying attention and that more officers are patrolling. Fewer people linger in the park all day, she said.

But she expects the situation outside her window is “here to stay.”

She’s told Hales as much. “I said, ‘Mayor, the next New York Times piece is not going to be about how great our food and wine are.'”

Click here for full article

 

NW Examiner: Civility Collapses on North Park Blocks

Civility collapses on North Park Blocks- Sept 2015
Civility collapses on North Park Blocks- Sept 2015 – click to enlarge

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.

 

North Park Blocks Recommendations to Mayor Hales

City_Hall,_Portland,_Oregon_in_2012On 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

1000 ft Emerson School Drug Free Zone extends the full length of Park Blocks
1000 ft Emerson School Drug Free Zone extends the full length of Park Blocks

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

Mayor Hales – What’s the Plan?

After ignoring the summer’s invasion of traveling gangs into the North Park Block, the city surrounded one park block (between Burnside and Couch) with barbwire-topped chainlink fencing to cordon off the block from all public use.

City either ignores problem or denies all use

Not surprisingly the gangs moved across the street to the playground block in front of the Emerson school. The remaining blocks up to Flanders now have a higher concentration of drug use, prostitution and off-leash dogs.

This morning Michelle Cardinal CEO and Co-Founder of R2C Group wrote Mayor Hales  requisition clarification regarding his plan to reclaim the park. We will publish his reply.

Mr. Mayor

I was wondering when the North Park Blocks will be finished with fencing for fixing of irrigation system and prep for Art Walk? Last week – the city did fence in just one block at corner between Burnside and Couch. But have not completed entire section between Couch and Glisan.

This partial fencing, has caused many of the vagrants and gangs to move into a smaller are in front of the Emerson School and also our offices on Davis and Flanders, all the way down to PNCA. Making the situation even more unbearable.

On a safety note – things continue to spiral out of control on the North Park Blocks. I’m sure you saw the story of our neighbor who’s dog was attacked by an unleashed Pit Bull over the weekend? 

At night we continue to have large groups of gangs setting up tents and camping on our sidewalks – especially on Davis/park – under an overhang across the street from our office.

I am very concerned – there is a heightened sense of palpable fear in our neighborhood. These traveling gangs of hooligans, seem to have no fear. They are brazen, because they know the police have no authority to do anything. I worry something horrible could go wrong. When can we get some relief soon?

Your swift attention is appreciated.

Yours truly,
Michelle