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