Nick Fish, Portland's parks commissioner, has broken what's mostly been a code of silent unity at City Hall over the Occupy Portland protests, sending out a fairly harsh letter this afternoon that lays out the potential bill for damages to the two occupied city parks downtown—Chapman and Lownsdale squares.
Fish's letter (pdf) asks for help dealing with the damage, some of which—thanks to trampled ground and rope-rubbed tree trunks—may take years to manifest, he says. Apparently the camp's creation of an earth stewardship committee wasn't convincing enough for Fish.
The letter then goes on to invoke the civil rights movement and the goals of the Occupy movement itself.
It's a shift for Fish who, on Day 1 of the camp, went out of his way to provide extra garbage pickup—and who also doesn't have the same electoral freedoms as our self-declared one-term mayor, Sam Adams. It also marks the first public comments by an elected official who isn't Adams. Earlier, according to the Mercury's regular review of Occupy-related emails from Adams' office, Fish had deferred to the mayor as the public face of Portland. But even as long as a week ago, cost discussions were beginning to surface as a point of contention over an occupation that Adams has allowed to continue for nearly two weeks.
(Oh, and what about all those festivals during the summer that muddy up and wreck the fine grass over at Tom McCall Waterfront Park? I asked Parks, and spokesman Mike Ross said "events like, say, the Brew Fest or marathon require a permit and fees; I believe the funds are designed to help mitigate cleanup and maintenance. They costs vary by event and number of people, and various other factors.")
Update 3:40 PM: I've heard back from Shawn Rogers, the parks bureau's customer service center manager.
Yes, all permitted events are subject to damage fees, whether it's a sports league or festival. In Waterfront park we use a formula that, in addition to actual damage, records the likely damage caused by different types of activities and structures being placed within the park (tents, stages, vehicles, pathways, portable restrooms as well as estimated numbers of people in attendance). Each are given a point value and a charge is added. That specific money goes to the renovation of the park that occurs two to three times each year.
To be clear, damage fees are directly related to something that an event broke or damaged during their stay in the park. Renovation fees are separate and are determined in advance of the event.