People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
"Sidewalk Managment Plan": Sit/Lie 4.0
After Multnomah County Circuit Judge Stephen Bushong declared Portland's Sit/Lie ordinance unconstitutional in June (PPR #48), a fourth proposed version of the law surfaced. Apparently still being pressured by the Portland Business Alliance and its supporters, Mayor Adams and the other members of Portland City Council are taking another run at clearing the sidewalks of those deemed undesirable. Rather than risking another unconstitutional ordinance, they came up with the "Sidewalk Management Plan" (SMP). Several meetings were held prior to putting forth the Resolution promoting the SMP. "Stakeholders" were invited to present their concerns and ideas to Mayor Adams and Commissioner Fritz. One set of stakeholders, mainly representing homeless advocacy groups, made the same arguments that have been made for years: there are laws and ordinances to deal with unacceptable behaviors occurring on the streets and sidewalks, and it has never been necessary to target a whole group of people in order to deal with these particular behaviors. Mayor Adams indicated his intention to base the SMP on the Americans With Disabilities Act, despite there being no known incident of anyone with disabilities being unable to travel down a Portland sidewalk due to people sitting or lying there. It was also stated at the meeting that the issue of sidewalk cafes and A-Boards would be addressed in the Plan.
A subsequent meeting for members of the Portland Business Alliance was kept secret until less than 24 hours in advance. Attendees were required to be on a guest list, and private security guards stood at the door to keep out the uninvited. Tellingly, the meeting was held in a conference room that is located underground. Comments made were stunning in their disregard for civil, human and legal rights for all in our community. One person suggested making all of downtown Portland into a park so anyone considered undesirable would be subject to park exclusion, and another suggested privatizing the sidewalks. Business leaders also suggested that the state Constitution be changed to limit free expression ( Mercury , September 17).
Portland Copwatch (PCW) sent a open letter to the Mayor and the Commissioners regarding the issues discussed at the two meetings. There was no response.
City Council on October 21 discussed the SMP and took public testimony. PCW sent a follow up memo stating that their proposed enforcement of existing laws "including littering, harassment, disorderly conduct and drug dealing," must be applied equitably regardless of a person's dress, skin color, perceived economic status or other appearance. We asked that the City consider charging most of these crimes as violations rather than creating criminal records for people cited under the Plan. One of the Plan's proposals is to create training programs for private security guards under contract with the City. We stressed that accountability and oversight of these guards must be a high priority, noting some of the brutality experienced by homeless people at the hands of rent-a-cops, many of whom carry guns. Council also proposed the creation of a "telephone and internet-based option for the public to report concerns regarding sidewalks and the public realm in Downtown Portland." When we pointed out the inequity of this, Commissioner Amanda Fritz replied that her "friends living outside" could utilize the Central Library and that staff members at the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Office of Human Relations and her office would be available for "in-person assistance during business hours." How quickly those calls or e-mails could be made by a homeless person reporting abuse contrasted with a business person calling on his cell phone hasn't been, and probably won't, be determined.
Members of PCW were appalled when Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese testified that as part of the Plan, plainclothes officers will go on the streets to "spot" various behaviors, then call for uniformed officers to make arrests or issue citations. This spying smacks of a police state and we have no doubt who will be the targets.
Commissioner Fritz invited PCW to serve on the SMP oversight committee, consisting of a mix of 25 members. We subsequently sent her a memo declining the invitation. We pointed out that there should be no more efforts to create programs designed to hide poverty from the public eye which, ultimately, are programs that criminalize being poor and homeless. While we will not be on the oversight committee, we will attend the public meetings and will be alert for any proposals which appear to denigrate or harm homeless people or to violate civil rights.
For more information contact Sisters of the Road at 503-222-5694
Sisters of the Road Cafe shut down for three weeks at the end of July because "police received complaints from neighbors about drug dealing, aggressive dogs, and people not being able to walk through on the sidewalks" (Sisters email, August 28). Their solution: Chalk lines showing where it is ok to sit, where to line up for a meal, and a clear through "walkspace."
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.