RE: “A Band-Aid Solution for Portland’s Cycle of Evictions” [News, July 18], News Editor Alex Zielinski’s story about the Eviction Prevention Pilot Program, which, Zielinski noted, “acts as a short-term financial solution to a chronic problem—tenants’ inability to pay rent in a city with a deficit of affordable housing.” The program is made up of staff from the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT); JOIN, a homeless outreach nonprofit; and Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO). Zielinski spoke with Margot Black, the founder of Portland Tenants United (PTU) and a volunteer working to connect tenants with LASO attorneys.
While we appreciate your paper’s consistent attention to urgent tenant rights issues, including this article, we must express our concern with several inaccuracies and troubling implications in it.
This article was based on an informal shadow of a PTU volunteer. PTU was never informed of this story and it contains quotes and descriptions of events that are misleading or taken out of context.
For over two years, PTU has helped tenants advocate for better terms and get connected to lawyers in eviction court. We are currently working in collaboration with the Portland Democratic Socialists of America to formalize this into a team of volunteer advocates. But we are not lawyers, and contrary to what readers might assume from reading a quote in the article, we do not “have the money” to pay landlords’ ransom if they stick-up tenants for rent they can’t pay.
PTU is also concerned that the portrayal of tenants facing eviction in this piece inadvertently plays into false and harmful myths. Describing tenants as “skipping a rent payment” or “slipping up” can lead some readers to believe that tenants willfully or carelessly decide to take a break from paying rent. In fact, rent is usually the first thing our income goes towards, and if we cannot pay, it is usually because we have no money for anything else. The problem is not helpless tenants who don’t know how to balance checkbooks, it is zero-tolerance landlords who issue evictions the moment someone comes up slightly short on rent. The solution for that is lower rents and more proactive work to connect tenants to rent assistance before they are thrown into eviction court.
Your readers may interpret this article as implying that the Eviction Prevention Pilot Program is merely a “Band-aid,” and therefore a waste of money. Although eviction prevention alone will not solve our housing crisis (that requires rent control, more affordable housing, empowering tenants to collectively govern our own homes, and ultimately decommodifying housing altogether), the Pilot Program is vital triage for tenants desperately in need of support.
Portland Tenants United Organizing Committee and Portland Tenants United Communications Group
RE: “It Can’t Happen Here” [What’s She Mad About Now?, July 18], Courtenay Hameister’s column about the belief that Hitler “can’t happen again, especially in America.” “It’s okay to compare someone who’s seriously Nazi-esque to a Nazi, and if you don’t think Trump wants to be a dictator, you haven’t been paying attention. So pay attention. It’s happening here.”
Thanks for having the courage to say this. What used to sound like irresponsible rhetorical excess has become merely descriptive. It is happening. It has happened. And the most terrifying, unconscionable part is that no one is doing anything about it.
living in the villa
THE FINE ART OF COMPROMISE
RE: “Cuts to Immigrant Rights and Other Ballot Measures You’ll Be Voting on in November” [Blogtown, July 19], Zielinski’s rundown of this fall’s ballot measures, including one intended to roll back Oregon’s 31-year-old law that prevents state and local governments from enforcing federal immigration laws, and a statewide push by supermarket chains Costco, Albertsons (owner of Safeway), and Kroger (owner of Fred Meyer) to ban taxes on groceries and sugary drinks like soda.
Didn’t we throw these clowns a bone with Richardson? That was the deal, right? You get the secretary of state, we get to not have your bullshit referendum items each year? Seriously, every item you nudnicks come up with is a variation on “Derp, don’t wanna pay mah taxes, derp.”
Well, that is a very narrow-minded view of our conservative neighbors, Doug Fer! I can assure you, they don’t ONLY care about their taxes! They’re also quite fond of harassing brown and Black people.
For your noble, measured reminder to look at the bigger picture, Euphonius, we’re giving you the Mercury’s letter of the week—and two tickets to the Laurelhurst Theater.