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Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend at Sam and Randy's

If you haven't been in downtown Portland over the last 48 hours, then you probably didn't have some punk put a cigarette out on your face, club you with an umbrella, spit on you, try to punch you in the head, threaten you with a gun, or beat you with a metal pipe. What a dull life you must lead.

Comments (36)

I'm downtown every workday. I've ridden the Blue line Max from out past Gresham to and from work for over 15 years. The number of losers and crazies out there is astonishing. Today at lunch, I walked to the central library and was asked for change four times and encountered a number of other loons on my 8 or 9 block walk. This is normal now. It's just become more and more tense downtown, particularly over the last five years or so. Maybe its because I've spent so much time downtown, but I have no desire to spend any more time than necessary there and rarely bring my family downtown for entertainment purposes.

I too ventured into the downtown area for an errand, and took time to stroll several blocks between SW 12th (where the 3-hour meters are), and SW 1st. Quite a few available.

In the past, I would discover some interesting stores or sights.

The only highlight was a nice porchetta sandwich at the People's Pig food cart in the Alder/9th food pod.

The downers?
- so many vacant storefronts
- I was asked to share part of my sandwich
- I was asked for a few dollars to help someone get the $11 needed for a ticket out of town
- another request for $11 written on a sign
- another person at a corner with a sign asking "Need a job or muny"
- quite a few vacant storefront entries with sleeping bags, blankets, and/or carts loaded with belongings
- very few shoppers

Downtown seemed to lack the vibe of past years. It was a nice day for a walk, but a little depressing to see our fair city in dire straights.

Fortunately, no loose cannons encountered.

Randy joined Lars this afternoon when he played his usual flippant clown routine.

It was, ha ha, tee-hee, oh what fun it is playing you shortsighted fools.

336 days to go. But after this, it's going to take a strong hand to mop up the mess, and alas, none of the new City Council will have it. Things will probably get worse before they get better.

Put a ricochet on it!

It is not just Sam and Randy. You have that dim-witted pseudo liberal idiot Nick Fish. He never met a bum he didn’t love. Fish is the quintessential left wing Kool-Aid drinking light weight flake that hasn’t got a clue about running a business or creating jobs. His whole career as a trust fund lefty is spent tilting windmills. Then there is Amanda Fritz who has the common sense of a marble. She is so mindless that she will rubber stamp anything from the SamRand twins just to be in their club. Those four make Saltzman look good, which in any other arena would be laughed out of town. What a city we have now. The new bunches of dullards running for offices are not much better. I guess it will be the next election cycle before the great backlash.

The retailers left for the safety and the customers of Bridgeport. It is now a downward spiral, where the smart people (both retailers and shoppers) left early, and the others are either planning to leave or clueless.

Hard to break a cycle like this, especially when (as Jack said above) the future elected look no better than the current losers.

Sad, but it looks like Portland gets what Portland wants, election-wise.

John Benton said it well.

30-40 years ago, Portland was what they claim to seek today: a "vibrant community".

It really sucks, now.

Perhaps, some day, the renters will elect people with vision - but it won't be happening anytime soon.

"30-40 years ago, Portland was what they claim to seek today: a "vibrant community"."

Hey, the New York Times wasn't writing about us then!

Who cares that 30-40 years ago Portland was safe, and had the best big city public school system in the United States?

What we care about is our press releases, not how the city actually works! "Branding" is what is important!

Yeah, but at least there's no cryptosporidium.

Downtown Portland often seems like the set of The Walking Dead or a George Romero zombie movie. I've never seen anything like it in any other city. Every out of town guest I have comments on it. With leadership from Nick Fish, Amanda Fritz and the rest of the gang, nothing is going to change. Very sad.

Max: Perhaps, some day, the renters will elect people with vision
JK: I suggest that the problem is too much "vision" and not enough common sense.


Back in either the 1980s or the early 1990s, there was a new theory of policing called the "broken window" strategy that became popular and was put to work in places like New York City. And from everything that I've read about that strategy, and seen firsthand, it actually worked.

The strategy called for police to respond immediately to even minor offenses -- like vandalism and aggressive panhandling -- rather than sit around waiting for major offenses to occur; the theory being that responding quickly and directly to minor offenses ultimately led to fewer major offenses.

And that didn't mean shooting everyone in sight, just using common sense.

So, what is the strategy here in Portland?

I go where I need to go, but the last two times I've been downtown I've been made to feel ill at ease. First, I made the mistake of asking directions, then couldn't shake the man with the creepy smile for blocks. Next, I ill-timed my exit from a restaurant and stumbled into the path of guy flailing around like Jack Nicholson at the Overlook Hotel. Both times were in broad daylight.

Our family moved from Oakland to Fremont when the drug violence became endemic in the 1970s, but Portland's psycho-contextual malaise is different.

I would say: downtown is to Portlandia as Altamont is to Woodstock.

Wow. You people are sure depressing.

Farris maybe has a mental health problem. Does he have a history of episodes? Who or what agency failed Farris--and the rest of us?

Professor, have you ever considered moving out of the city? I know that you're not a quitter; but what would it take?

And yet, there are still people in Lake Oswego who believe that a streetcar to Portland will be just wonderful for their golden years to shuttle them into Portland for Arts & Science Lectures, the Symphony, and dinner out with friends. I don't mind if these folks want to experience the culture that Portland has to offer, but do they have to bring it home?

Question-- where do Homer Williams, Dike Dame, Christie White and crew live? Usually animals do not like to foul their own nests.

You guys/gals obviously don't get to North Portland much these days. NoPo west of I-5 and around Lombard (you know, where Sam lives) makes Downtown look like Disneyland.

Downtown Portland was dead 30 or 40 years ago. Yeah, there were fewer panhandlers,etc. , but no one lived there, no one shopped there, no one ate out there, etc. Downtown was DEAD. Anyone who thinks the '70s were the glory days of downtown wasn't going down there much. It overwhelms me how much it's changed, but for chrissakes, let's not get all misty eyed about the ghost town days.

Downtown has never been the suburbs, and it never will be. It's the same in every downtown. The panhandlers, etc. are in every city; they are also now in every suburb--but they're called flaggers and cafe-squatters now. Not sure we can blame them on Randy and Sam.

Observer, every city has its issues, but too many people in Portland are too quick to say, "it's like this in every city". I'm sure things have gotten worse everywhere because of the economy. However, my personal experience in cities around the US and Europe is that Portland's downtown is one of the worst for vagrancy. Most recently I was in Austin. Its downtown has very few people panhandling, sleeping in doorways or pushing around shopping carts loaded with junk. The only panhandling I saw in Austin was at freeway off ramps.

Downtown had a renaissance in the late '80s and early '90s. But then Vera and Sam and Erik Sten took charge, and well, now it's terrible again. A big part of the problem is that the Pearl sucked the life out of it. Charlie Hales's developer pals did o.k., though.

"The panhandlers, etc. are in every city;"

How much do you travel? By "every city", you must mean a handful of West Coast cities - Seattle, Portland, San Francisco. And no, the suburbs aren't like downtown Portland.

It really isn't like downtown Portland in downtown Chicago or Manhattan. For some reason, the populace, police, and governments of non-West Coast big cities have decided that certain forms of panhandling behavior aren't acceptable.

Try aggressively panhandling on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and see what happens to you.

John Benton -

Your characterization of the incumbent city council is spot on.

Sadly, it could get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Consider the Nolan - Fritz race. As bad as Fritz is, Nolan would be so much worse.

Regarding the Mayor's race, while I have previously thought that Max Brumm is where my protest vote will go, I've been looking at the Bill Dant guy who's running. He has as little a chance as Brumm, but the things Dant is saying are a breath of fresh air.

It would be nice to be able to actually vote for someone in an Portland election based upon their own merits and positions, rather than vote against a candidate.

pPUt another way, I'd rather enthusiastically support the "best", in my eyes, candidate, instead of reluctantly holding my nose and voting for the "least bad" candidate, e.g. Fritz, as contrasted to Nolan.

But look at the bright side. Portland's own superhero will be out of jail soon:

"You fools! No prison was ever built that could hold...CAT PISS MAN!"

I keep hearing that Oregon's constitutional free-speech guarantees are more generous than the federal Constitution's and that somehow panhandling (and strip clubs) got interpreted as a form of protected speech. Sounds like it could be a convenient excuse for Portland officials to do nothing about the situation downtown, but if it's true it does make things more complicated. We all mocked Sam's new sidewalk ordinance, but it was at least an attempt -- perhaps a too-confusing one--to improve the situation. I doubt the liberal and laissez-faire Portland-area voters would ever vote to change the state constitution to reign in free speech, particularly when the well-meaning but over-zealous homeless advocates start tugging on their heart strings.

What is the city of Portland doing about the rights of shopkeepers who see their businesses collapse because groups of unruly people that are driving away their customers?

Schumacher incidents should tell you exactly what the city thinks of shopkeepers rights.

Nonny – I agree with you about the Nolan/Fritz race, however I am going to vote for Nolan. It is time we sent a message to the incumbents and future city council members that their jobs are always on the line. Perhaps then they will pay attention to what this city really needs instead of “dream on” agendas. Sure, this time around we will get clones of the current double speak, non scientific sustainable green gobbledygook, ruinous wasteful spending and borrowing, public subsidies of developer fantasies and trains to nowhere. I do believe there is going to be a backlash. Beth Slovic of the Oregonian wrote an article about the food waste composting. She asked for input from the readers. From her reply to my email, she stated she was inundated with emails. I am sure they weren’t positive about the program. Supposedly she is going to write an article about the responses. I really believe there is a great underlying current of resentment in this city and it is starting to percolate up. Once this reality hits the newly comprised city council they are going to have to adjust their behavior drastically.

Nolan's husband was in on the first PGE Park debacle. That's absolutely fatal for me. Amanda's an incumbent, and her judgment's not the strongest, but at least she shows no signs of being in it for the money.

It is a riot when Fish and cityhall present a plan to (get this) "End Homelessness in Ten Years." Somehow the world and other rich countries haven't been able to solve homelessness (other than through deportation) over the ages, but Portland city hall is so smart it will solve it in the next ten years.

Cityhall has a weird way of solving homelessness: Offer free housing, free storage, free help in getting food stamps, and help with free medical. This is like San Francisco's brainless experiment back several decades ago when they discovered that folks from other parts of the world will flock for the free government benefits, only adding more homeless to the city's streets.

I tried to explain this to a group of citizens at one of the city's love-in sessions, but all I got was blank stares and statements like: "why doesn't Phil Knight for instance hand over more of his loot." Pretty sad state of affairs.

Bob, did you read the Tribune's story a couple of weeks ago about the new city homeless shelter. The story profiled some of the residents. Not surprising, one of the residents said he moved here from California a few months ago because he heard that Portland was so generous to the homeless. Amazingly, he got one of the coveted 130 free apartments at Bud Clark. Now, we're paying for him - not California. Rather than slapping himself on the back, Nick Fish should be doing some explaining.

Peter Apanel raises a good point with his remarks about the "broken window" style of policing. Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker has an excellent overview of the modern American prison system and the tactics successfully employed in New York that Peter refers to:

One thing inhibiting implementation here in Portland would be our characteristic unwillingess to step up and fund things. The officer/resident ratio in Portland lags well behind that of most metropolitan police forces. Per a Politifact article of last year, Portland is about 25 percent behind Seattle in that category.

I'm from the midwest. On a recent trip to Oklahoma City, one of my kids actually asked me where the "guys with signs" were. She assumed that every city has panhandlers.

But they don't. In some (rational, logic-run) cities, they take care of it before it gets out of control like it is in Portland.

"The Professional Panhandling Plague"

Downtown business owners in Nashville now rank panhandling as their Number One problem.

In St. Louis, another city battling perceptions that it’s dangerous, two-thirds of respondents to an online poll by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that they’d encountered aggressive panhandling. Matt Kastner, a real-estate agent who has moved back to St. Louis from the suburbs, believes that panhandlers are perpetrating much of the minor crime—such as car break-ins—that plagues parts of St. Louis. Many solicit him on the city’s roads. “They’ll come right at the car as you’re getting off an exit ramp,” he says. “I’m afraid one of these days I’m going to hit one of them.” Kastner’s fears aren’t misplaced: in Austin, where persistent begging has given new meaning to the term “Texas panhandle,” the police chief noted last August that more than a third of the people killed in traffic accidents that year had been cited for begging in the past.


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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
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Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
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Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
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David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
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Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
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