Tag Archives: Randy Leonard

The streets and Street Roots

There’s been a wave of press this month on aggressive behavior by panhandlers and canvassers on Portland’s sidewalks, mostly due to the fallout from the sit-lie ordinance being struck down by the local courts.

None of that coverage has included Street Roots vendors.

At Street Roots, we train individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty to sell the newspaper and be polite – treating people like they expect to be treated. And the rhetoric about the problems on the streets have not gone unnoticed among the team. Here is an e-mail one of our vendors sent today to Commissioner Randy Leonard, who has included “magazine” sellers among those to be treated equally in the city’s next approach to the streets:

Mr. Leonard,

I read the article in today’s Willamette Week on your proposal to regulate panhandlers. Like you, and many others, the more aggressive panhandlers – particularly more able-bodied ones who hold cardboard signs when they could be working to make a decent living for themselves – can be a thorn in the backside. While I applaud this, I am concerned about the canvassers and other vendors.

I am a vendor for Street Roots, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.  As the director, Israel Bayer, himself would state, selling Street Roots is a more acceptable alternative to panhandling. The majority of us- 99.99% of us – are courteous, friendly, and do what we can to build community and contribute to the betterment of society. My concern is this regulation could wrongfully target those who are behaving themselves as they canvass for charities and/or selling SR. What I basically ask for is assurance that you only target those who are overtly aggressive and belligerent.

In closing, I want to thank you for your service to the city, and thank you for listening.

In kindest regards, I remain,
Darren W. Alexander

Commissioner Leonard’s response:

I agree with you, Darren.  I have had nothing but positive experiences with Streets Roots vendors.

Thanks for writing….Randy

Which leaves a lot flapping in the wind on how folks like Darren will experience the next generation of street ordinances.

So we want to know: What’s your experience with Street Roots vendors been lately?

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

Portland loo opens

looPosted Dec. 8, 2008

Portland’s first loo opens on NW Fifth and Glisan. The new public restroom is one of kind and cost around 140k to create. The city plans on duplicating the model and creating more restrooms in the future – possibly even to sell to other cities.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard says, “It’s a fundamental human right to have public facilities for all,” according to Amanda Waldroupe with Street Roots.


Leonard talks with a reporter outside the new loo. Phlush, a public restroom advocacy group showed up in mass to support the opening.


Sisters Of The Road offers Randy Leonard a bronze plunger for his efforts on creating more public facilities for individuals experiencing homelessness in Portland.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Seattle’s toilets are closed for business

(July 16) The New York Times reports that the City of Seattle has officially called it quits on its public automated toilets. Randy Leonard is quoted in the story promoting Portland’s alternative design (pictured below). 

Leonard tells Street Roots that the newly designed restroom will hit the streets in August. The prototype will be located next to the Estate Hotel on 3rd & Couch.

The prototype restroom designed through Leonard’s office comes at only a fraction of the price other cities are paying for public restrooms. 

Leonard says the city will watch how it (public restroom) is used and stand(s) up to use before implementing up to 10 of the restrooms throughout Portland. 

(New public restroom design. Image courtesy of Randy Leonard’s office.)

Posted by Israel Bayer

Housing puzzle: New Street Roots on the streets tomorrow

(July 10) With a new housing commissioner, mayor and City Council on the horizon, Portland’s affordable housing developers decided in January that it was time to start looking at their operations in a new light. Six months later, five major housing development entities within the Portland area are undergoing a collaborative evaluation: the Housing Authority of Portland, the Bureau of Housing and Community Development, the Portland Development Commission, Gresham city government and Multnomah County.

The evaluation is being overseen by the Seattle firm Clegg and Associates and is being called the Clegg Report. The report may radically change the way business is done on the front lines of homelessness and affordable housing and is do out in August. Contributing reporter Anthony Schick has the scoop.

Two area attorneys gear up to challenge Portland’s controversial Sidewalk Obstruction Ordinance (sit-lie), Randy Leonard and the Bureau of Housing and Community Development butt heads over shelter beds, and Sally Erickson is named the new head of the Portland’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

All of this and much more in the new edition of Street Roots hitting the streets tomorrow.

Posted by Israel Bayer