Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sit/lie to be extended six months

According to the mayor’s office the obstruction as nuisance, otherwise known as the downtown sit/lie ordinance is set to be extended by six-months. It is due to sun set on June 15, after an 18-month pilot process. A vote for the extension will come before the council on May 24th.

The downtown ordinance has served few functions over the last 18 months, with only 19 tickets being handed out - eight of which were out of downtown leading to all of them being thrown out of court. Of the 11 remaining, one was found not guilty, and the rest did community service, or served time due to other factors.

Interestingly enough, the Portland Business Alliance requested a six-month extension for the ordinance in a letter addressed to the mayor and the council on May 1. The letter also requested the PSAC committee,
  • heavily influenced
  • by the PBA, be assigned to look at the ordinance and suggest recommendations.

    Instead, the mayor’s office has chosen to develop a separate committee that will look at a broad base of public nuisances, and public safety issues. The committee will have representatives from varying interest groups, including business, and community activists.

    People around the table say this is just the beginning of a much larger process to develop a strategy citywide that will target several criminal behaviors. Will sit/lie, and other ordinances go citywide? We will have to wait and see. The mayor’s office claims they are trying to come up with solutions that will avoid the criminalization of its own citizens. Let’s hope so, but don’t count on it.

    Portland is at a critical point in deciding what the future of the city will look like. Will we turn into the next Pleasantville, sweeping away social problems on the surface, or will we become a city that can truly invite a healthy urban experience?

    While the business community continues to scapegoat people on the streets, and other social ills being experienced around the globe, the people of Portland feel much safer than what we are led to believe.

    According to the Neighborhood Citizens Survey conducted in 2005 by the auditor’s office, people in Portland don’t support the constant talking points put out by the Portland Business Alliance, and others saying we have a public safety problem. In fact, the survey shows just the opposite.
  • Survey

  • So why are countless city staffers, neighborhood, housing, and homeless advocates, and others spending hundreds of hours, and tax payer money on the issue of public safety in Portland? And why does the PBA continue to lobby for stricture laws downtown when people already feel safe? And why are we looking at possibly expanding these systems citywide when the ones we have in place are failing?

    Seems to me we are chasing the end of a rainbow that simply doesn’t exist.

    You can also check out Monica Gorack, from the Oregon Law Center's take on sit/lie in the latest Street Roots
  • Monica Goracke

  • And the Mercury story
  • Worse in L.A.

  • And more on the national perspective at
  • Sit/Lie ruling from 9th District Court

    Heather said...


    I am so glad to see you here in spirit, if not physically.  Your awareness and ability to articulate the issues are so welcome and I appreciate all the energy, time and commitment you put into your writings.  Please know that these postings are read and heard.

    Keystone Accounting

    Torrid said...

    while it's true Portlanders feel very safe in general--especially compared to other cities our size--the safety issue pertains specifically to downtown, whose ratings are not exactly "quite the opposite." (What is true is that downtown is much safer compared to most of the east side, but then again it's much better lit and relatively sparsely populated).

    Don't get me wrong--I share your sense that there is a lot of paranoia and misperception driving PBA's response to downtown safety. And we do have things so much better than elsewhere. But while sit/lie is a useless tool, there are things that we can do that we're not, and it's fair to consider the transient population's effect on the viability of the major shopping/tourist/commuter area of the city, around Pioneer Square. That includes both homeless, who could really use a bathroom or two around there, and bored kids who really need shooing along if they start to loiter aggresively.

    Shorter me: I think both can be true--there is a real issue to deal with, but there is also a whole LOT of room for less "hide the problem" mentality.

    Israel Bayer said...


    Thanks for posting.

    Food for thought. I went through the numbers for certain questions of the survey pertaining to this and found this -

    - How safe would you feel walking alone during the day downtown?

    Almost all the people living downtown answered in the 70% range to feeling safe, while people to the eastside seem a little more un-easy. Still, even those neighborhoods very few said it was “bad” or “very bad.”

    How safe would you feel walking alone at night downtown?

    These numbers reflect the more conservative stands the business community tend to take. With high's being in the 30% range that feel safe.

    Which strikes me as odd, because most of the business community has exited downtown by 7 o'clock. One could argue that this really has nothing to do with poor people hanging around. Portland is a one shift downtown. If downtown was a late night downtown that supported two and three shifts it may feel differnent - not to mention more jobs, and revenue being created. I think we would see the numbers rise in people who frequented downtown if this was the case, therefore adding a degree of safety because people are out and about. Right now the only late night fun is drunkards clubbing. Who would feel safe in a downtown that closes up before dark by themselves? Which is exactly why you see homeless people cluster after dark, not because they are plotting someone's demise, but because they feel unsafe themselves.

    - How safe would you feel walking alone during the day in the park closest to you?

    All of the downtown neighborhoods represented in the survey who feel safe rank above 70% for this question, with less than 10% feeling un-easy in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood where a lot of this stuff is being generated.

    - How safe would you feel walking alone at night in your neighborhood?

    These numbers bounce back, and forth from neighborhood to neighborhood, but again the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood seems to be above 60% feeling safe.

    - How safe would you feel walking alone during the day in your neighborhood?

    These numbers never fall below 60% for people feeling safe, with most of the city, including downtown neighborhoods in the high 80’s and 90 percent range.

    While I do agree, that businesses downtown should not be excluded from the advocating for what’s in their best interest. Believe, I would want a healthy and vibrant downtown, and city. We can all agree to that. I just think using some of the smartest minds in the city to go over this stuff is less than inspiring.

    Jake said...

    Funny this subject should come up.

    Check out the latest blog entry from the mayor
    Portland raves

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