On Tuesday, October 31, Pioneer Square's board of trustees voted unanimously to push City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to ban smoking in the square. The board, drawn from downtown businesses, developers, and service providers, voted over the past three months, and delivered the results at the quarterly trustees' luncheon (featuring charcuterie and salad on the 23rd floor of the 6th Avenue Hilton Hotel).
"It's pretty clear we have a real interest in making Pioneer Square a non-smoking space," said board member Doug Macy, of design and planning firm Walker Macy.
Saltzman, who heads up the Parks Bureau, responded, "It's great to hear the vote, and we'll move it forward by ordinance in November."
The proposed ban, first reported by the Mercury in September ["Smoke 'Em While You Got 'Em," News, Sept 21], could land those smoking in the square with a $1,250 fine and 30 days in jail. It is seen by many as a way to rid the square—otherwise known as Portland's Living Room—of groups of street kids who often gather and smoke in the space.
So far, the proposed ban has not involved any public input. MATT DAVIS
On Tuesday, October 31, Mayor Tom Potter convened the first meeting of his Mental Health and Public Safety Panel, which was created in the wake of James Chasse Jr.'s in-police custody death in September. The panel, made up of representatives from the city, county, state, and federal government, plus mental health advocates, is intended to find ways to bolster the safety net for people with mental illness, so they don't end up dead in the back of a police cruiser.
Much of the initial meeting was spent laying the groundwork and identifying other groups that should be included—like Emergency Response Technicians. But the major focus was on convincing the governor and legislature to approve increases in the Department of Human Services' budget for mental health care and facilities.
Independent State Senator Ben Westlund warned that getting more mental health dollars would require a focused, concerted effort.
"This is not a task for the timid," he implored. "This is not a call to action; it's a mandate to act. How hard are you willing to fight?"
The task force will meet again in the next two weeks to develop a game plan. SCOTT MOORE