Last week, news broke on the Mercury's Blog Town, PDX that City Commissioner Dan Saltzman was planning to push through a ban on smoking in Pioneer Square. Now, all that's left for the ban to move forward is approval from the square's managing board and a sign-off from Saltzman.
While the downtown square is technically a city park, and therefore under the supervision of Saltzman (who's the city's parks commissioner), it is also managed by a nonprofit organization whose board is partially made up of downtown business leaders. Any changes to the square's rules have to go through the governing board.
Pioneer Square's executive board has unofficially approved the ban, but it will take the approval of the entire board of trustees to pass it on to Saltzman—that's expected to happen in as little as a month.
Once the board votes on the "recommendation," it will then be forwarded back to Saltzman, who has the ultimate approval.
"Of course, you know I support the recommendation," Saltzman says. But he added that the ban was not his idea.
"This was never something I've instigated," the commissioner said. "This has been around for a while, but until you started reporting on it last week, it was slowly moving forward. Now with all the attention, I think people are seeing that it's time to do something."
Saltzman said his hope is that the board of trustees will make an attempt to gather public input—perhaps through a forum—before the rule is implemented. So far, the public has been kept out of the process.
Last week, the head of the Portland Business Alliance's "Clean and Safe" program hinted that the smoking ban would be a good way to clear the square of street kids. Saltzman denied this was part of the proposal that was brought to him.
"I don't think any of this is meant to do that. It's never been presented to me as a way to get transients out," he said.