"I don't put my name on an ordinance unless I believe in my heart and my head that it's the right thing to do," said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, telling city council last week why she wants to renew the sit-lie ordinance for six more months. "It's actually changing my mind from what I thought I would do when I was campaigning last year."
Damn right. "When I campaigned last year I said that I would need a lot more evidence to support this ordinance," Fritz said.
Call me naïve, but I thought I could count on Fritz to stick to that position when she actually got elected. Instead, she's now suggesting that with six more months of outreach, education, and discussion on the sit-lie law, the city can somehow achieve "reconciliation."
While I think Fritz may actually believe what she's saying, I don't accept that we can continue to compromise people's civil rights while waiting for the law to jibe with our pseudo-liberal consciences. Discussing morally abhorrent behavior while we continue to indulge in it is the opposite of democracy. It's pretending.
I've sat through almost three years of process about the sit-lie, and as far as I've noticed, nobody's changed their minds. The Portland Business Alliance (PBA) continues to argue that providing a few basic services in trade for an ordinance designed to push homeless people out of downtown is okay. Others, me included, think we should provide things like a homeless day center and benches without tacking on a draconian ordinance. Sorry, but trading civil rights for basic services is never okay.
"It blows my mind that we're able to talk about saving the earth through green buildings and sustainability while simultaneously criminalizing human existence," said Katie "Stoop" Nilson, at last week's hearing, providing a pointed critique to Mayor Sam Adams' ongoing support of this law.
Homeless advocate Patrick Nolen said the aggressive panhandling and harassment supposedly being targeted by the sit-lie is already illegal. "Since I've been in office I've heard from a lot of downtown businesses who are struggling right now and who have said that this ordinance has been helpful," said Fritz. And all I could think was that since her election, Fritz has somehow been seduced by the PBA.
"I hope you become homeless," yelled one audience member at last week's meeting. I don't wish that on anyone, but I can certainly understand this person's anger and disappointment.