This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 4, 2007 11:04 AM. The previous post in this blog was Keeping us safe from Rustoleum. The next post in this blog is Birds of a feather. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Much ado about nothing

Despite all the hubbub about the City of Portland's new ordinance about sitting and lying on the sidewalks, not much has changed, at least according to a reader who writes:

I wish you could draw attention to the continuing problem of people (mostly young, rough looking people) sitting on sidewalks downtown. I was down there recently with my parents visiting from Florida. They couldn't believe the number of panhandlers, people pushing around shopping carts and groups of young people sitting on the sidewalk. We noticed a group of several young people and a dog sitting right in front of the new Macy's. Then we saw a group sitting in front of Rite Aid (a place I always see people sitting). The next day, we saw more kids squatting in front of the Rite Aid.

I sent an email to the mayor's office and the police. No response from the police, but to their credit, I did get a quick response from the mayor's office. Unfortunately, it was unsatisfactory. I asked why the new sidewalk ordnance is not being enforced, and the mayor's aide said enforcement is a relatively low priority, despite all the hullabaloo about the new ordnance and all the money spent on new benches, so that people wouldn't have to sit on the sidewalk.

I've travelled to many cities around the world and I've never seen anything like what we have in Portland. I always hear that SF and Seattle are worse, but it's pretty bad here in Portland.

No input from me on this one. I pretty much steer clear of downtown these days.

Comments (28)

As with so many discussions on this topic, there is no mention of an actual problem in this email, despite the opening sentence.

"Rough" looking people sitting around? Yes. Potential disregard of a constitutionally questionable law? Yes.

Actual interference with someone's ability to do something, e.g. go into Rite aid or walk around downtown? No.

if they dont bother anyone, who really cares. there are much larger problems to deal with in this city.

I think the problem appears to be a case of bourgeoisie disease.

This is consistent with what we've seen - the ordnance is just another hypocritical joke by the city administration. Aside from the Monday-Friday trek to work and back we've stopped going into downtown.

I quit going Downtown over 20 years ago. It has Changed my outlook on life a great Deal. I think it was The Kind rough looking Guy who Stepped into the Crosswalk and Urinated on My car. He Did not do that again For a While as I raised a lump on the side of his head With My Fist.Problem Solved

I just don't go downtown much anymore, especially if I have visitors in town because it is embarrasing. Once again the city is looking out for everyone but the actual taxpayers.

It would be nice if Randy spent more time walking around downtown seeing how the street people interact with the taxpayers. I always see some of Tom's finest sleeping on the steps of the First Baptist Church on Taylor. Really enjoy the stale urine odor that the Church is always trying to wash down. Randy's feeble attempt at making the news worked. The entire City Council needs adult and fiscal supervision!

I agree 110% with the comment posted by Luke above. As a defendant in the landmark case that got the original sit-lie ordinance thrown out as unconstitutional, I also believe that this law is all about protecting the sensibilities of middle and upper class shoppers. (A PDF copy of Judge Litzenberger's opinion is available at the link below.)

My participation in the constitutional challenge of the original sit-lie rule was a political statement, not a result of homelessness. But I am aware enough of the old maxim "there, but for the grace of God, go I".

I predict that if the police and police look-alikes downtown start enforcing the new version of the rule, it will be thrown out as well (if challenged) because it doesn't pass the sniff test constitutionally. In fact, I believe it stinks worse than the first one.

The much-hyped benches downtown are no salve for rampant poverty, a shitty job market, lack of resources and the common ill of having no other place to go.


The sidewalk is a public space. If people want to sit there, and they are not bothering anyone or obstructing pedestrians - who cares? If you don't like panhandlers - ignore them, they'll beg from someone else. If you're offended by the existence of other human beings - stay home.

Public toilets (I mean, beyond the ones in City Hall) should help. Beyond that, I'm reassured that some of those posting here are choosing to stay away from town.

I go downtown and take out of town visitors there all the time and we always have a good time. I guess some people just really hate to have to see anyone other than people that look exactly like they do.

Yes, anyone who dislikes stepping in human feces, smelling urine on every block, or being harassed by overzealous panhandlers is just a bigot.

"Stepping in human feces, smelling urine on every block"?

Man, I have no idea where the people who say things like this hang out downtown, but I work there every weekday and frequently make my way there on the weekends, and I can't remember the last time I saw or smelled feces or urine on the street.

(1) Find parking garage. (2) Walk near any stairwell. (3) Inhale deeply.

That ain't Chanel No. 5.

Not to steal from SNL but "stepping in human feces and smelling urine on every block" -- really???? Really??? A bit of hyperbolic rhetoric, maybe? There are problems downtown, I know. I spend every day down there, but I think that is a misleading description.

"stepping in human feces and smelling urine on every block"

No, you see? Now you're misquoting the comment. There was a comma in there that you conveniently left out.

Is says, The urine is on every block. And that's not far from the truth.



The feces, maybe you only catch in a few places.

I don't smell it. You must have the nose of a beagle.

Maybe you're right. I've smelled enough homeless pee down there to last the rest of my lifetime, and so as I say in the post, I stay out of downtown Portland.

I'd say "your loss" but that's not entirely true. If others are reading your blog and wondering about the downtown of Portland, let's just say that I hope I offer them another opinion of what it looks and smells like. But, again, there are aggressive panhandlers.

"I don't smell it. You must have the nose of a beagle."

try any parking garage within a couple of blocks of pioneer square...especially pungent on summer nights...

ironic that your banner is a downtown building...

you know it's too bad older folks are abandoning downtown. however i understand that different people can be scary.

but don't fret, we'll temporarily clean them out for you before the rose parade starts in june.

Thanks, sonny. But we're not afraid, just disgusted.

And hey, please leave room for cream. Thanks.

I watched a guy s**t on the sidewalk in broad daylight about 15 feet away from the BofA ATM on 5th Street about three years ago.

And the elevator in our parking garage reeks of urine a couple of days of week (until they mop it out).

I guess they got tired of p**sing on stairwells. I would prefer to work on Kruse Way, but our office is full there.

Bad job market? Only for those kick-back jobs that pay big bucks. If you want to work there is no problem with the job market.

The DJC said last week:

"It's the construction industry's biggest problem... Young workers don't want to work hard, sacrifice and just plain get their hands dirty - the essentials of a construction career..."

Yeah, it's a workers paradise out there. There's plenty of $7 wage slavery jobs for kids with no high school degree. Just grab your choice of Plaid Pantry clerk positions, find 6 friends in a similar situation and rent a dump in Gresham together.

As a regular denizen of downtown PDX (and a homeless PSU student for the last 2 months), I've gotta say, the pee-smelling blocks are pretty normal. I've been witness to a number of occassions when standing at a bus stop, someone just opens up his fly and takes a leak right there on the street. It happens, even if you can't smell it.

I've never had to step over human feces (thankfully..) but I do know personally of two angry downtown workers who've had to hose off their doors before of bum-s**t.

Walking downtown these days is really sad. So many empty store fronts line up with 'For Lease' signs, dogs and shopping carts and dirty sleeping bags are a normal sight on many blocks, and meanwhile another cupcake shop opens up in the Pearl.

The sit-lie ordinance doesn't do anything to help; it just attempts to shovel the problem off in another direction. What we need are more long term solutions, less condos going up where there should be affordable apartments, and more living-wage jobs.

"...more living-wage jobs."

It's interesting how folks from south of the border come up here in droves for much less than living-wage jobs. And they still have enough money to send to their families.

If you want to, you can work 80 hours a week in this state. You just have to want to work -- something alien to the dregs littering our streets.

I'm guessing that the ordinance is really intended for law enforcement to sort of carry in their back pocket in case they need it; that is, in case they need to roust somebody but can't really hang anything else on them. I can't really see officers taking it as a prime directive to keep the shifty and shiftless ever moving day and night. That's what the MAX trains are for.

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