Tag Archives: Amanda Fritz

Sit-lie law moves along

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Seven months into the enforcement of Portland’s Sidewalk Management Ordinance, there are no lawsuits festering in the wings, no major protests at City Hall, and little in terms of social discourse under the banner of civil rights violations. The absence is notable considering that this plan, which regulates sitting and lying on public sidewalks, was born of nearly a decade of sit-lie regulations drawing all of the above.

Unlike similar city efforts in the past, which essentially prohibited sitting or lying on sidewalks downtown wholesale, the complete sidewalk management plan includes an agenda of actions to alleviate sidewalk problems. It includes a regular, open forum called the Public Sidewalk Management Advisory Committee, with business representatives, community advocates, representatives of city commissioners, police, and anyone interested in attending. As both a watchdog and sounding board for the ordinance, the advisory committee meets monthly to discuss sidewalk management and the ordinance’s performance, under the oversight of Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

“As a participant and an advocate, I always thought the previous ones were unconstitutional because there wasn’t anywhere on downtown sidewalks where people could sit or lie if they didn’t have a place to go, and this ordinance expressly allows people to do that.”

So far, she says, it seems to be working.

“I’m getting far fewer angry messages from all sides,” Fritz says. Fritz says she still gets some messages from tourists who complain about panhandlers, and the local community understands the challenges and is “moving in the right direction,” but that they will always have to contend with more challenges and limited resources. Continue reading

Final sidewalk ordinance and three-page FAQ released by City Hall

Amanda Fritz’s office just released the final Sidewalk Management Plan ordinance and a three-page overview of the law that will be voted on tomorrow.

Final ordinance: FINAL SMP Ordinance_4.29.10

FAQ:Sidewalk Management Plan FAQs FINAL_4.29.10

Posted by Israel Bayer

Proposed alcohol ban opens larger debate on street drinking

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s office and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is attempting to decrease the amount of public drinking in downtown Portland by convincing grocery store owners to voluntarily not carry certain kinds of alcoholic beverages.

But all the initiative is resulting in so far is fury from grocery store owners, collective agreement that it is not a real solution, with only a fraction of them agreeing to comply.

“VibrantPDX,” as the initiative is called, is a voluntary agreement between grocery stores and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement not to sell alcoholic beverages with high-alcohol content. That includes malt liquor and beer with names such as Old English 800, Steel Reserve, Milwaukie’s Best Ice and Camo Malt Liquor.

All grocery stores east and north of I-405, south of Lovejoy Avenue, and west of the Willamette River have been asked to sign the agreement. There are 67 grocery stores within those limits.

The purpose of the program is to decrease what proponents call “street drinking,” or drinking in public. It is illegal in Portland, and offenders are given a citation, which does not come with fines or other types of punishment.

The Portland Police Bureau gave 1,740 citations for public drinking in downtown Portland in 2009. That accounts for 53 percent of all public drinking in the city. Twenty-five percent of all individuals being held in detox came from the downtown area.

Steve Mattsson, the manager of Hooper Detox’s sobering station for intoxicated individuals, says the station has 12,000 admissions a year. Fifty percent of those people are ones that will return, Mattsson says, “on a repeated basis.” In his mind, there is no doubt that there is a street drinking problem.

“Over the last two years, one of the most frequent complaints we get were problems around street drinking,” says Mark Friedman, a Central Precinct officer.

“It is a compelling problem in a small area,” says Theresa Marchetti, ONI’s liquor license specialist. She emphasized that it is a location and not store-based problem. “(And) it’s not a problem we can really ignore.” Continue reading

SR gives recommendations for Sidewalk Management Plan

Attn: Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioners Randy Leonard, Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman

Street Roots would like to thank both Mayor Sam Adams and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz for taking on the difficult subject of sidewalk management in our community.

Street Roots has the following recommendations for the ordinance:

–       Dedicate funding for two or three homeless outreach workers who work with individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty downtown, including youths and people dealing with mental health issues.

–       Dedicate funding for a neighborhood non-uniformed police officer to work with outreach workers and organizations working with people experiencing homelessness and poverty, including youths and individuals dealing with mental health issues.

–       With the resources above, organize a response team made up of homeless outreach workers who respond to calls regarding people experiencing homelessness and poverty and people dealing with mental health issues in non-emergency situations on sidewalks during peak hours.

–       Six-month reporting date to bring stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness and poverty, to discuss the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Historically, Street Roots has come out against the sidewalk ordinance in 2002, and again in 2006 due to its strict enforcement guidelines that targeted people experiencing homelessness and poverty.

Street Roots feels this ordinance brings together a wide-range of community concerns, and on its face is fair to everyone accessing sidewalks. Saying that, in our recommendations, we suggest a six-month reporting date that will allow stakeholders to determine the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Mission: “Street Roots creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty by publishing a newspaper that is a catalyst for individual and social change.”

Man of the hour — Nick Fish

In the cavernous meeting hall of the Governor Hotel, as 200 people dined at the REACH Community Development Corporation’s annual donor luncheon, Nick Fish was seated off in a corner at the table with members of the newly created Portland Housing Bureau. But when the lights dimmed, Fish was front and center for the show. In fact, at just a few feet away, no one was closer to the giant screen that projected the stark realities of Portland’s housing and homeless crisis.

The grim barrage reflected on his face: 1 in 2 Oregonians live on incomes 200 percent below the federal poverty line for a family of four – $42,400

1 in 4 Oregonians spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent.

64 percent of Portland residents living in poverty work full time.

41 percent of Portlanders living in poverty were single mothers

20,000 new affordable housing units are needed in Portland over the next 7 years.

Nick Fish was the man Portland elected to help change all this, or at least help to correct the economic inequality that, over the course of the past decade, has priced much of Portland’s housing beyond a commoner’s reach, and made it the hub of a state that recently led the nation, per capita, for homelessness, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This was the job he wanted — the job he fought for — several times since 2002, when he first ran for City Council. After two unsuccessful runs, he succeeded in the special election of 2008, filling the position left vacant in June of that year by Erik Sten’s resignation. As Portland’s first commissioner to have combined control over housing and parks, Fish oversees two bureaus that impact nearly every resident of the city, particularly its most vulnerable populations as they interface with business, neighborhood and development concerns.

But just as he got his ticket to the ball, the carriage turned to a pumpkin. Not only did the economy nosedive into the biggest recession in recent history, evaporating local resources and nationwide housing investments, but City Hall soon erupted in a salacious scandal involving Mayor Sam Adams and a teenage intern.

Meanwhile, quietly across the city, people were losing their jobs and their homes, foreclosures hit a staggering pace, and homelessness jumped 37 percent across the state over the previous year.

“Who would have thought, a year and a half ago, after City Council got through dividing up a surplus, that not only would we be in the worst economic downturn of our lifetime, but that the engine room — the precipitating effect of this recession — was a collapse in the housing market. So not only am I in charge of housing, but housing is essentially the place with the three-alarm fire, and I’m in charge of leading a city/county collaborative effort to try and address this unfolding humanitarian crisis.” Continue reading

Opportunity awaits us at every corner

Editorial from the Sept. 18 edition.

The world is a very daunting place. From war to health care, the environment to the economy, and the H1N1 flu – people are feeling the squeeze. Locally, it’s no different. From the front page story on this edition of Street Roots to unemployment rates in Oregon to young Oregonians coming home in body bags; like we said, it’s a daunting place.

Saying that, we also live in a beautiful city, among amazing and innovative people, rich and poor, with a will to make the world we live in a better place.

Both big and small contributions are being made daily to make the city and region we live in a healthy and sustainable environment. From Metro’s stand on urban sprawl to the Portland Trail Blazers’ “Make It Better” Campaign, from the Reed College students raising money for sex trafficking victims to the vendor selling you this newspaper, amazing things happen.

Watching many of the newly elected officials in Portland navigate the recession while trying to improve the quality of life for Portlanders and Greshamites is assuring. You get the feeling that with the political intelligence and craftiness of many of the commissioners at the county – something special is on the horizon.

Nick Fish is finding his way. It’s not easy being the housing commissioner in Portland. He has taken shots from the left, including from Street Roots, while balancing a frozen market, a housing bureau reorganization and an increase of homelessness. And still, it feels like he’s just getting his engines started and that we have yet to see what he has planned for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness in the region.

While City Hall does feel more strange than Street Roots has ever seen it (and we can’t quite put our finger on it), there’s still great things happening. Commissioner Randy Leonard can’t seem to get enough of creating more public restrooms. And we can’t get enough of cheering him on. Sam Adams and Amanda Fritz may pull off the unthinkable on the sidewalks issues – and make both advocates and businesses happy. So, geez, it’s not all bad.

When President Barack Obama was elected into the Oval Office in November, Street Rooters, like many other Portlanders, had a sense of renewed optimism. It’s time to channel that energy. It’s time to stand up. No sitting on the sidelines. (Sidewalks are OK.)

There’s hundreds of non-profits and/campaigns working for the greater good in the region. Environmental issues, poverty, agricultural and immigrant movements, civil and human rights, there’s no shortage of great things to contribute to. No engine can ever pick up steam without a single spark to set it off. So be it pedal power or political engagement, there’s an important place for you in this town’s future.

Lastly, treat yourself right. It’s contagious. Then maybe, that daunting world, will have to take a back seat to the change we are becoming. There’s no time like now. The chance won’t come again.

Extra! Extra!

july1009page1The cool breezes call for a cup of joe and a seat outside of your favorite café with your favorite newspaper. The new Street Roots comes out tomorrow morning and your friendly neighborhood vendor will be standing sentry with all this in his or her hands:

Balancing act: Ted Wheeler wants to talk about urban renewal areas. Here’s why you should listen. Joanne Zuhl interviews the Multnomah County chairman.

Precinct shuffle brings new faces, attitudes into Southeast: Amanda Waldroupe explores what it means for Central Precinct to assume authority over Portland’s Southeast neighborhoods.

‘This is a bigger issue:’ An interview by Israel Bayer with City Commissioner Amanda Fritz on the latest decisions surrounding sit-lie and street access.

The eye of the beholder: From the Great Depression to modern day, ‘Hobos to Street People’ showcases artists’ interpretation of poverty and homelessness.

And so much more that 16 pages can barely hold it all. But we did it again – all for the price of $1! So pour a tall one and support fair trade by picking up a copy of Street Roots.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Sit-lie a cliche of obstructionism

sit-lie2The new ruling that the sit-lie law is unconstitutional caught Street Roots off guard. According to sources at City Hall, it also caught the city on its heels.

Rumor has it that staffers there are scrambling to try to figure out what exactly the ruling means.

Street Roots thinks it’s clear to the broader public what the ruling means and what City Hall should do. For years, seven to be exact, the sit-lie ordinance has become a wedge issue in our community. Not to mention that the law infringes on the rights of Portlanders, specifically homeless folks.

The sit-lie ordinance is being evaluated in community-wide discussions led by City Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz to determine the long-term viability of the law. We have a hunch that the process will not shed any new light on the subject.

This law is more or less a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s time to cut bait. Stop beating a dead horse. The police bureau, private security groups and the business community need to learn to live without the sit-lie ordinance.

The simple fact of the matter is, we have individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty that live and contribute in our community. We may not always like the way a few bad apples create tension on the streets, but it’s time to turn over a new leaf and look at more progressive and innovative ideas when thinking about these issues.

The Street Access For Everyone (SAFE) workgroup, made up of members from the business community, homeless advocates and concerned citizens, has created a framework on which to work together. We don’t think this should be lost.

Street Roots recently joined the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) in the same vein. We believe that while we don’t always agree on specific issues, the PBA and the larger business community do care about people experiencing homelessness. And we have to find a way to breakthrough the tired rhetoric. Here’s our chance.

In the past two years, the city and the PBA have supported the SAFE committee to help build more park benches and to open public restrooms downtown — things that benefit both the housed and homeless communities. They have worked to create day access space for people on the streets to have a welcoming place to go and have created the capacity for a homeless women’s shelter to increase its hours to 24/7. The shame of the sit-lie law only tarnished these worthy efforts.

What if the discussion could move on to what homeless folks can do alongside the business community? How can we be involved in cleaning blighted areas or helping police drug dealers and predators that prey on people on the streets? We can develop a relationship in the spirit of collaboration instead of confrontation, and share the concept that the people on the streets are a part of the solutions we all seek.

None of this is possible with an ordinance that tells people not be a part of the community at-large. It’s time to move along.

Read the latest news and the seven year history of the ordinance.

Sit-lie update and seven year history

Sit-lie1Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen K. Bushong has ruled that the city of Portland’s sidewalk-obstruction ordinance — commonly referred to as sit-lie, unconstitutionally exceeds the city’s authority.

The ruling was issued June 19, and grants the motion to dismiss a sit-lie case being defended by attorney Clayton Lance.

“This ordinances has been found unconstitutional on three separate and distinct grounds,” Lance told Street Roots. “That’s a heck of a lot of unconstitutionality for one little ordinance out of the city. It just is not going to work and they just keep trying to make it fit, and it will never be able to fit, in my opinion.”

The sit-lie law prohibits sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The city has said that it is to keep the sidewalks free of obstructions. Records show that the majority of people cited under the law are homeless.

Judge Bushong ruled that the city’s law conflicts with and is pre-empted by state law; State v. Robison, which Lance says already allows the city to penalize people for obstructing sidewalks.

“The (sit-lie) ordinance does not at all deal with obstruction. That’s a myth,” Lance said. “It was to move the transient and the homeless because the transient and homeless were sitting on the sidewalks in downtown Portland. Nothing else.”

As Lance noted, this is the latest round in the city’s failed attempts to institute a sit-lie law. In 2004, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Marilyn Litzenberger ruled that the city’s 2003 version of the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The current version was a response to that ruling with more specific information on what was and was not prohibited. The Court of Appeals further ruled that the 2003 version was pre-empted by state law, the same as Bushong’s ruling.

“In the United States, we fundamentally respect the rights of individuals to meet, to assemble, to communicate and to use public property. And (the city’s) attempts at curtailing those fundamental rights have been unconstitutional every step of the way.”
It is presumed by many that the city will revise its ordinance for another round. Lance says he is ready to defend any charges under the ordinance for free.

“Because of social justice and compassion,” Lance said. “We need to have social justice and compassion. And this law lacks that completely.”

In May, the City Council voted 4-1 to extend the ordinance until October, with the only dissenting voice on the council being Commissioner Randy Leonard.
City Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz are currently leading a community process for input on the controversial ordinance.

Fritz told Street Roots she is reviewing the ruling and communicating with the City Attorney’s office before making a formal comment.

Fritz does say, “I am currently hoping our public meetings over the summer will go ahead as planned, as now more than ever we need to talk together to figure out solutions that work for everyone.”

“I never supported the sit-lie, because of its effect on some of our most vulnerable citizens,” says Leonard.  “I am happy the courts agree.”

“Everyone at City Hall is circling the wagons and trying to figure out next steps,” says Matt Grumm with Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office. “People are aware of the decision and next week we will have a little more clarity.”

Asked if the police are currently enforcing the law after the ruling, Grumm says, “The commissioner has not asked the police to stop or discontinue with enforcement.”

The court’s ruling was welcome news at Sisters Of The Road, which has campaigned against the ordinance since its creation.

“This ruling re-affirms what Sisters has known from the beginning,” says Brendan Phillips with Sisters Of The Road. “The sit-lie law violates the human rights of Portlanders, it (also) violates the constitutional rights of Portlanders and hopefully this (ruling) will lead the city to immediately repeal the ordinance.”

Seven years of sit-lie; A history of Portland’s sidewalk suits

Continue reading

City Council extends Sit-Lie until October

This morning, City Council voted 4-1 to extend the term of the sit-lie ordinance until Oct. 23, 2009. Commissioner Amanda Fritz had proposed prolonging the term of the ordinance, which was scheduled to sunset in June, so that she and Commissioner Nick Fish could spearhead a community-wide discussion before deciding what to do with the law in the long term. Last week, council heard testimony from one person in favor of extending the ordinance and more than 20 people opposed to it.

Tobiah Tillman protested the ordinance last week

Tobiah Tillman protested the sit-lie ordinance last week

Commissioner Randy Leonard was the only council member against the temporary extension last week and this morning’s only “no” vote.

“Sometimes our community gets caught up in process for process’ sake, as if process is a means in itself,” Leonard said. “This process that’s being asked for by my colleagues is at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in our community, and I am just appalled.”

He added that he hopes Fritz and Fish will arrive at the same conclusion he has: that the sit-lie ordinance does not work.

Fritz said she does not yet know how she’ll vote on renewing the ordinance in the fall, but she identified issues from last week’s testimony that she wants to address over the next few months.

“I know that a lot of passion has been provoked by this effort (to extend the ordinance),” Fish said. “I’m confident that with the breathing room that has been proposed and the chance to have a broader community conversation, we can come back in 4-5 months (to vote it up or down), and … have a better understanding of the various ways it could be strengthened if it was to go forward.”

City Council will reconsider renewing the ordinance in September.

Posted by Mara Grunbaum

Public argues against extending Sit-Lie

Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes

Fritz and Fish insist they need time for further discussion

City Council heard a wave of public testimony this morning against the downtown sit-lie ordinance, which they are considering extending until at least October 23, 2009.

The 2-year-old Sidwalk Obstruction Ordinance was scheduled to expire June 8. A Street Access For Everyone committee report finding that the ordinance was predominantly enforced against homeless people was presented to council in November.

Rather than having the council decide whether or not to renew the controversial ordinance permanently, Commissioner Amanda Fritz proposed prolonging its term to give her and Commissioner Nick Fish — both relatively new to council — time to study the ordinance and discuss it with the wider community.

For the play-by-play: Continue reading

April Fools: Nick Fish spearheads acquisition of new furniture

chair22From the April 1 edition of Street Roots. (The April Fools edition was one of the most popular Street Roots ever published. We sold out of the newspaper in a week and ordered more. It’s on the streets for two more days – get your copy while it’s hot!)

Portland City Council officials were forced to postpone several pressing agenda items this week after their habitual praising of their own accomplishments ran even longer than usual.

When their April 1 meeting convened, council members unveiled their new set of swivel chairs, which they will sit in to deliberate city policy and hear testimony from the public. Commissioner Nick Fish spearheaded the acquisition of new furniture after a wheel broke loose from his previous chair, leaving it with a lean and prompting concern about the safety of all the council seats.

The commissioners often take time to acknowledge the work of their colleagues when a policy passes or a project kicks off, but they seemed especially pleased about this project.

“This morning has literally been hours – or even days – in the making,” Fish said as he sank into his plush new seat. “But I think I can speak for the rest of council when I say that it’s been a real labor of love. Before we continue, I want to make sure we recognize the people who spent significant amounts of time and energy making this happen.

“First,” Fish went on, “I want to recognize Roger Stillman of the Office Depot furniture department, without whom this really would not have been possible. It has truly been an honor to work with Roger, who was kind enough to walk me through the office chair aisle and offer his opinions and support.

“I’d also like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, chief of maintenance Edgar Delgado, who had to unpackage the chairs and screw all of the pieces together. And boy, you practically need a whole new committee to read those instructions,” Fish added with a chuckle. (The Furniture Assembly and Regulation Team appointed by former Mayor Tom Potter was cut in 2007 for lack of funding.)

Fish then presented Stillman and Delgado, who were in the audience, with the city’s first-ever “Spirit of Furniture” awards.

“I’d like to pause for a moment,” declared Commissioner Randy Leonard, swiveling his chair toward Fish and steepling his fingers under his chin, “to recognize what a great orator Commissioner Fish has become. It has truly been a pleasure to watch.” Continue reading

Truth Commission offers tears and insight

August 7, 2008

Old Town was alive tonight. Nearly 60 individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty gathered with allies and advocates at Sisters Of The Roads’ sponsored Truth Commission on the sit-lie ordinance.

Around 20 people gave rather emotional testimonies about their experiences with the obstruction as nuisance ordinance and other realities of living on the streets.

Many of the testimonies touched upon the idea of that the law unfairly targets individuals who are tired and beat down – constantly living in fear for their safety from both law enforcement and criminal elements existing on the streets.

Housed community members delivered a series testimonies about why the sit-lie does not protect Portlanders and wastes taxpayer money.

One housed speaker told the audience that she never asked City Hall or the Portland Business Alliance for her safety to be protected from people experiencing homelessness. “We all live in the same city.”

Newly elected City Commissioner Nick Fish, City Hall staffers, and council candidates Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis looked on, while reporters circled the event trying to get the scoop.

Charles Lewis spoke early in the event about his experience sleeping out on the streets for a night prior to deciding to run for office.

Tom Hastings with Portland State University, Jeff Bissonette a consumer advocate with Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, Father Ron with the Downtown Chapel Roman Catholic Parish, and Paul Boden with the Western Regional Advocacy Project based in San Francisco offered their insights and reflections about the testimonies and civil rights on Portland’s streets. Community organizer Patrick Nolen with Sisters mc’ed the event.

Crowds gathered in front of Sisters conversing after the event while festivities for Portland’s First Thursday filled the sidewalks.

Street Roots will be publishing exerts from interviews done with people on the streets about the obstruction ordinance in the August 8, edition.

On August 11th the Safe Access For Everyone oversight committee will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at the First Unitarian Church from 3-5PM.

Posted by Israel Bayer