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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Midnight rider

So there I am, leaving the Rose Garden after the Blazer game. Tuesday night, 10 o'clock. As usual after a well attended, close game, there's a lot of traffic around the arena.

When what to my wondering eyes does appear -- but a City of Portland streetsweeping truck!

Folks, this is the city that can't afford a snow plow. This is the city where the police stations close at 6 o'clock because there isn't enough money to keep them open at night or on weekends. The city that can't pave streets 40 blocks from the center of town. The city that can't fix a pothole.

But there it is, at 10 o'clock on a clear, calm Tuesday night -- a Portland streetsweeper truck. Sitting in traffic, the driver no doubt racking up premium pay for working at night.

God bless our municipal government.

Comments (18)

I've actually had good luck in the last couple of year in getting potholes repaired that I've reported to the city. Albeit, they were always on well-traveled roads.

I also recently got a very fast response from the city last month to a report of a street light out on my block. I reported after business hours on Wednesday night and they had a crew replacing the light on Friday morning as I was on my way to work.

I only ever see them (1) after a parade; (2) after most of the leaves fall; and (3) after they've spread gravel, the weather has improved, and it's time to clear the gravel.

I assume (3) is the reason this time.

Street sweeping in Portland is kind of hilarious. When I grew up in San Diego, we'd get notices from the city saying that on such-and-such a date they were going to clean our street, and that we'd better have our cars off the street by 6am or they'd be towed. And then the truck would come down the street and clean out the gutter. Here in Portland, where there actually is serious dirt/leaf accumulation in the gutters, we have a single truck roll through once each winter, always unannounced...right down the middle of the street, which is always clean anyway because of the traffic. Still can't figure that one out.

Maybe it was the Zamboni arriving for a Winter Hawks game.

I had a great experience lately with the water bureau and fire dept. A pipe burst and the two dept's arrive on the scene within 10 minutes of calling. Disaster was averted.

Since I have arrived in PDX, I have had excellent experiences with the city bureaucracy, relatively speaking. It's a model of efficiency compared to the other places I have lived. And, something must be working OK if the police dept. *can* close offices at 6PM on weekends.

As for the "city where ... " discussion why not turn it around? And say it's the "city where people want all kinds of services everywhere and at all times, without wanting to pay for them."

Dave J.: I lived in SE between Hawthorne and Belmont and between 28th and 39th for about four years (different apartments, though) and as I recall, every year, they would put notices saying all cars had to be moved on date such-and-such for street cleaning.

They've also done this in NW Portland as evidenced in this bikeportland post.

I find it amusing to hear Portland residents complain about things that are done IMMEDIATELY.

Out here in the urbanized (but unincorporated) section of Clackamas County, the motto could very well be "low taxes for low expectations".

Oops, make that "AREN'T done immediately".

I lived in SE between Hawthorne and Belmont and between 28th and 39th for about four years (different apartments, though) and as I recall, every year, they would put notices saying all cars had to be moved on date such-and-such for street cleaning.

Interesting. That's where I live now (have for four years), and I haven't seen any of those signs...perhaps just a recent change, dunno.

I should note I've had excellent feedback from the city when I wrote to alert them to a dangerous, poorly marked intersection near my house. They got right on it.

Maybe he was sweeping up the Chalupah wrappers.

In far Southwest, we get street sweepers about every 5 - 6 weeks. No advance announcement. They come by and drag the leaves away from the curbs and suck them up on the streets around me.

No idea if they show up to sweep on the streets nearby where there are no curbs, which tend to not be city maintained for potholes and such.

Heh...I live in part of inner southeast Portland that has experienced a huge increase in the number of street trees, thanks to the efforts of Friends of Trees and the City of Portland's Urban Forestry program. The problem is, they haven't provided any commensurate increase in the tools required to keep the streets clean, particularly from November through February.

Because my street was once a streetcar line, many of the homes up and down the street have no offstreet parking. This means that when the unannounced street sweepers come through, they can't sweep the gutters due to all the cars parked. Several years back, in an attempt to get the city to deal with this, my neighbors and I requested notification of when the sweepers would be coming through, so we could move our vehicles out of the way. That was no go...they specifically stated that they did not wish to notify residents because too many of them took the opportunity to rake the fallen leaves off of their properties into the streets (which, I understand, is illegal), or even throw their trash into the street. Given that specified neighborhoods throughout the city (in our case, nearby Laurelhurst) already received such prior notification, the city bureaucracy's rationalization carried very little weight. It was even pointedly noted that the neighborhoods which received this service were generally "well-to-do" neighborhoods that could be suspected of harboring lots of influential types. (Types that usually have plenty of off-street parking, too.) Curious, that.

Every year, my neighbors and I complain about this glaring disparity. Some time back, the city went through a hokey-pokey about ending some of the existing services, but I have not heard the outcome of such. It sounds as though nobody gets notification any more...can anyone confirm that?

It has become the city's informal leaf composting mechanism. The leaves are allowed to building up in the street gutters until they break down into a mulch, which then temporarily clogs storm drains and creates small lakes at intersections. Once the leaf crud is washed down the storm drains, it eventually ends up being flushed into the Willamette River as part of the sewage overflow, where it can provide additional nutrients to the coliform biotics which make the river a health threat.

Ain't that thoughtful?

Think that's wasteful spending? During my freshman year at U of O, a street sweeper passed down Agate St. in front of my dorm every Monday night like clockwork, always during Late Night With Conan O'Brien.

In the years since I moved back to Portland, I've encountered street sweepers on the average of once a year. I thought they were a rarity only rolled out to clean up leaves in the fall or gravel after snow storms.

Cyclists have asked the city to clean up the gravel ASAP—it's a hazard to riders.

See what happens when we build bike lanes? Then they want us to spend more money to keep them clean and free of debris created because of cars... ;-) Of course if you just turn all the roads into bike lanes you wouldn't have this problem at all.

Stolen streetsweeper?

It sounds as though nobody gets notification any more...can anyone confirm that?

The City does schedule some neighborhood street sweeping. I can't remember where I saw it, no doubt on-line, but this year I noted when neighboring Ladd's Addition was scheduled --on a Sunday-- and I was sure to have my car off the street as the streetsweepers often make their way up here at the same time (and they did). Aside from my four Hawthorne trees, I've three huge "heritage oaks" across the street so I spend a lot of time raking "heritage" leaves, and last year took a pick-up load to a leaf collection center just before they came.

In NW Portland they post notices and actually have cars towed that ignore the warnings, so the streets are clear for cleaning and sweeping.

The larger issue, city services, is, not surprisingly, a mixed bag. The street-sweeper crew, when they came, worked their butts off. I called in a streetlight that was out, and it was fixed the next day. About the same time, I came home one day and it looked like a cement mixer dumped a line of now hardened concrete on the street in front of my house...I called that in and, many weeks later, nothing's been done.

It's no secret that there's a huge street maintenance backlog. How responsive the City can be is going to depend on a lot of factors (including spending priorities I often don't agree with). And while I appreciate that a streetsweeper out at night, may seem wasteful when there are seemingly higher priorities, I'm guessing that this one was primarily out collecting gravel laid down during the snowstorm. No, we don't have all the equipment --nor staff--we need for the rare snowstorm, but we do, as a city, make an effort.

Maybe he was sweeping up the Chalupah wrappers.

When the Blazers win with over a hundred points they give you coupons, Bob, for chalupas to have later. After one game, the harried woman handing them out as we exited gave me a stack of them. I later had multiple chalupas...not a good idea at all!

If they actually gave out chalupas at the Blazer games the streetsweepers would be out in force cleaning up worse things than gravel!

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