Mayor Charlie Hales told local public safety officials way back in September—an announcement first reported by the Mercury—that he was considering next month's abbreviated legislative session for the revival of a sit-lie push that faltered last spring despite heavy pressure from the Portland Business Alliance.
But now, it seems, that's no longer the plan. Hales' office has decided the politics of pushing a controversial bill in the condensed legislative session will make for too risky of a gamble.
"Even-numbered years are too damned hard," says Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, confirming a report that came out a little while ago in practically simultaneous tweets and posts by the Oregonian and Willamette Week.
The last straw, Haynes says, was a meeting today with House Speaker Tina Kotek. Kotek warned Hales that a bill wasn't already a "slam dunk" (as Haynes put it) heading into the session starting February 3 wouldn't be worth the effort.
"That did it," Haynes said—noting earlier in our conversation that the mayor's office had been "heading this way" already after its own internal conversations with top city lobbyist Martha Pellegrino. Haynes says Pellegrino told the office she couldn't "guarantee [us] this bill in 2014," citing the condensed schedule.
"You have so few bills and so few weeks," Haynes says.
Internal talks also touched on the notion that the city hasn't "necessarily used every single tool in [its] toolkit" for dealing with sidewalk management and aggressive panhandling.
"If we go to the Legislature and say that the to Senate Judiciary Committee," Haynes says, "their answer will be 'do that first.'"
And if the effort faltered in 2014, so soon after faltering in 2013, Haynes said Pellegrino warned, that losing streak would become its own hurdle—adding to outcry from advocates who worry that sit-lie bills are inhumane and allow for discrimination against the homeless.
"In Salem," Haynes says, "bills get a taint if they lose too many times in a row."
In fact, at today's meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, the same body where Hales made his announcement in September, State Representative Jennifer Williamson hinted at what turned out to be Kotek's advice to Hales. Williamson, who was on the House Judiciary Committee when it approved last year's sit-lie push, warned leadership in Salem was trying to punt any and all legislation deemed controversial into next year's regular session.