A little more than two hours after his April 26 State of the City address—where he laid out an agenda that included an anti-panhandling push and the city's need for a back-to-basics budget—Mayor Charlie Hales learned at least one powerful group would be at his side for whatever battles might come.
Bernie Bottomly, the Portland Business Alliance's top lobbyist, sent Hales' office an email (pdf) at 3:18 that afternoon titled "Great speech!" Bottomly's message, sent to longtime Hales' adviser Josh Alpert, praised Hales for doing a "great job" in delivering his speech and said he also "did a very good job of outlining what he’s doing and why and balancing a lot of ticklish issues nicely."
And Bottomly mentioned one of those "ticklish issues" in particular: Hales' promise to crack down on aggressive panhandling, in the name of "civility" and the need for "reasonable" local authority over sidewalks, while also trying to focus more resources and attention on homelessness itself.
"We very much appreciated his answers on sidewalks," Bottomly wrote in the email, obtained in a public records request after it was referenced in the city's latest batch of lobbying reports. It's worth noting, at the time, that Bottomly and the PBA were pushing hard on Salem for a bill, ultimately doomed, that would have reopened the door for a return to currently unconstitutional sit-lie laws.
But Bottomly's enthusiasm came with some friendly advice on messaging. Noting that advocates for civil liberties and the homeless often make the sage point that panhandling laws disproportionately affect the homeless, Bottomly suggested heading that argument off at the pass.
One thought on the sidewalk issue. Charlie mentioned homelessness and sidewalks in the same breath. I think we need to start differentiating that the sidewalk issue is not about a person’s status (e.g. being homeless) but about a person’s conduct (e.g. lying on the sidewalk). The opponents of sidewalk rules like to frame this as an issue of homelessness. It’s not. Lots of people are homeless—very few people lie on the sidewalk and frankly, quite a few of those who do are not homeless in the way that move people typically think of homelessness.
Hales appears to be listening.
His attempted ouster of a camping protest at city hall (people still sleep around the building at night, when sidewalk rules aren't in effect) drew heavy from complaints about conduct. Hales also made the point he was sending social services agencies down to talk to campers and that it wasn't up to him if people refused any services offered.
Hales also has given the PBA a central role in his effort (don't call it a "task force") to ask questions about homelessness and sidewalk enforcement. He's now had two meetings with providers, cops, business advocates, and others. Lynnae Berg, the PBA's downtown vice president, has been at both (along with Marc Jolin from JOIN and Doreen Binder of Transition Projects Inc, who also lobbied Salem for a sit-lie bill). Hales' office sent me this list of attendees, for that second meeting, late in July.
Doreen Binder Bud Clark Commons
Jim Hayden Multnomah County DA
Sharon Fitzgerald Central City Concern
Marvin Mitchell Julia West House
SteveTrujillo Father’s House
Dennis Lundberg Janus Youth
Marc Jolin JOIN
Lynnae Berg Portland Business Alliance
Bottomly's email, for good measure, touched on one other general complaint, or "pet peeve." He bemoaned how many people the pays to trumpet environmental "resource protection" but pays "very few" to "advocate for jobs and economic development." He highlighted the Office of Healthy Working Rivers—which Hales, a few days later, when he released his budget, would confirm he planned to kill.
One example below is the office of Healthy Working Rivers advocating for their mailing list to weigh in on the river protection part of the West Quadrant Plan. I wouldn’t object if PDC also used its resources to urge people to weigh in on the economic value of the river—but they don’t. And frankly, if they did, they’d get their hands slapped for doing it.
Just my pet peeve!