MAYOR SAM ADAMS has tried to pretend that his latest version of the sit-lie law is a way of "managing competing uses of the sidewalk." Specifically, he has brought up the Americans with Disabilities Act to say we need to keep Portland's sidewalks clear for those in wheelchairs. But I agree with the city's Human Rights Commission, which last week said that the law is instead designed to pit two disadvantaged groups against each other—the disabled vs. the homeless.
I can stomach Adams' barefaced lies on pretty much any other subject. But when it comes to looking Portland in the eye and saying a law—which has been exclusively lobbied for by the business community to harass the homeless—is in fact intended to protect the disabled, well... we have reached a new low.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz sided with the mayor on the new ordinance, but only after he agreed to drop an exception for free speech assembly. The problem now is that as soon as somebody sits down in the middle of the sidewalk with a sign saying, "I'm protesting the new sit-lie ordinance," they're going to be arrested. And then a judge is going to find that the new law is unconstitutional. And does Adams care? Not if the streets can be swept before the Rose Festival, he doesn't.
City Commissioner Nick Fish, at least, had the good grace to accept my $10 bet that this ordinance will be declared unconstitutional before long. But Adams spent most of last week's session telling homeless advocates how little credit he has gotten for using city money to support homeless services. As Dan Handelman from Portland Copwatch pointed out, Adams' argument was reminiscent of a parent who says how hard they work to earn money, cook, and clean—but that doesn't mean they get to abuse their kids.
Adams also said the advocates weren't looking at the "big picture." But I think he's the one who's lost sight of it.
"We find many places in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we felt were violated by this ordinance," said Arwen Bird from the Human Rights Commission—who happens to be a wheelchair user.
Adams responded to Bird with a galloping non sequitur, "Did you look at the budget?"
"You're kicking people to the curb," said Joe Walsh, who attended the council meeting. "So when you go home tonight don't look in the mirror and say you did the best you could. Because you didn't. This is wrong."