Cleaning up their act
Well, our complaint letters about the two Oregonian newsracks at the intersection of NE 24th and Fremont have brought about some serious corrective action. As regular readers here will recall, this is our ongoing test case to see what the rules are about newsracks on Portland sidewalks -- and to check out enforcement (if any) of those rules. While we're fussing over parade duct tape and hassling street people for sitting on the sidewalks, we think those ubiquitous streetside newsboxes are fair game as well.
On Thursday morning, we got a call (which was taken by the Mrs., as we were out of town) from Commissioner Sam Adams's office. They left a message with her to the effect that they would send someone out to take a look at the situation and get back to us.
Sometime between early Friday afternoon (we checked it out on our way home from the airport) and early Saturday afternoon (when we cruised by there again), the most offensive newspaper box -- the graffiti-littered O box on the northeast corner -- had been unchained from the traffic signal pole and removed, leaving only the untethered Tribune box:
The situation that's left on that corner is much closer to city standards than before, but to our eye the Trib box still encroaches into the "no private use" zone, which extends northward (to the left in the photo below) five feet from an imaginary extension of the property line on the lot of the corner (which would appear to be the line of the fence and brick box holding greenery, a little further back in the photo, that faces Fremont to the right):
This is a shame, because as of earlier last week, the Trib box had been moved mostly or entirely out of that zone, as we saw in this photo.
Still, as of today there are no graffiti or illegal chains, and the remaining newsrack is out of the "obstruction free" zone, which the O box was partially blocking before.
Over on the southwest corner, the other O box has been removed from its prior location:
But it hasn't disappeared -- it just moved around the corner, so that now it's on the 24th side of the intersection, rather than the Fremont side:
As you can see, it isn't tied to anything, legally or illegally, and it's clean of graffiti. But like the remaining Trib box on the northeast corner, the O box here is still well within the "no private use" zone.
It's gratifying to see these reductions in visual clutter and improvements in pedestrian access, but as just noted, we're still not sure that the O or Trib boxes are 100 percent legal. We also don't know whether the O made its moves on its own (in response to the letters we sent to them), or to what extent the city got on their case to make it happen. We're still hoping to hear back from someone at the city to get clarification on those points.
In that conversation, we're also hoping to get to the bigger issue of what specifically can be done about the dozens of other illegal newsracks that can be found all over the city. Where can normal people (not us, obviously) go to get at least the biggest offenders removed, cleaned up, or replaced? What information should be relayed to whom, and how? How bad does a violation have to be for the city to get involved? We know what we did in this case, but it would be nice to know what's going to be the most efficient and effective avenue to keep the sidewalks as clear as the law requires. We'll write more on this topic once we have that information -- if not before.
And there's more to consider. Is the Portland law requiring the right things? What should the city code say about streetside newsracks? Well worth further discussion.
Anyway, we would be remiss if we did not thank the Trib and the O for what has been done so far in our test case.