There have been a ton of changes to security at Portland City Council meetings since the council passed a constitutionally ambiguous new exclusion policy back in March.
City Hall has a number of new barriers to prevent access to the council dais, the city's paying almost $190,000 a year on security guards to check visitors' bags, spectators are no longer allowed in the balcony of council chambers, and only one of that room's two entrances can actually be used as an entrance. Yesterday, two contract security guards were sitting right outside of chambers during the meeting, which is the first I've seen that.
Mayor Ted Wheeler is clearly trying to pre-empt the frequent meeting outbursts that have marked his term. But what he's not yet doing is enforcing the exclusion ordinance.
As promised, the mayor won't exclude anyone from meetings (for up to two months) until a December 2015 ruling from US District Judge Michael Simon is modified or done away with. And while the city hasn't even asked for such a ruling yet, Simon did recently refuse to put the smack down on the new policy.
That ruling [PDF] came in the ongoing feud between frequent council attendee Joe Walsh and the city. Walsh succeeded a couple years back in convincing Simon to rule the city's former exclusion policy unconstitutional, and when council passed the new ordinance, he attempted right away to get Simon to toss it.
Simon refused. In his May 5 decision, the judge pointed out he'd merely stopped the city from enforcing its old policy, not from enacting a new one.
"The mere act of passing, or enacting, the New Exclusion Ordinance, as distinct from enforcing it, does not violate the Court’s injunction," the judge wrote. "Walsh has not yet been harmed, or even threatened with harm, by the New Exclusion Ordinance."
We've reached out repeatedly to the City Attorney's Office to figure out when the city might seek permission to use the exclusion ordinance, but haven't heard back. However, Wheeler spokesperson Michael Cox says city lawyers are forming up an argument, and will file a motion for the judge to consider the new policy in the near future.