Mayor’s office may launch program to pay community liaisons for litter, graffiti and camping hotspot reports

by AryanArtnews
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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is weighing a proposal to simplify community association complaints about homeless camps, litter and graffiti directly to his office.

On Tuesday night, Assistant Mayor Sam Adams invited the leaders of Portland’s 94 community associations to discuss homelessness, litter and graffiti on a Zoom call. About 40 people joined.

He shared plans to create a program where the community association and the business district will each provide a liaison to meet with city officials weekly to discuss homeless camps, litter and other issues near them. Liaisons will meet in groups with city staff based on current community coalition boundaries. Neighborhood liaisons receive stipends for their work, Adams said.

Adams’ team has drafted an emergency declaration that will be presented to Mayor Wheeler for consideration early next week. Adams said the mayor will consult with the city commissioner’s office before declaring an emergency ordinance.

This will be Wheeler’s fourth emergency declaration on homelessness in the past two months. But if Wheeler does declare a state of emergency, the Portland City Council would still need to approve funding for it in the upcoming budget cycle.

adams told World Wide Web This new plan won’t crack down on camping or cause camping sweeps. Instead, he said, it’s about “all the other cleanups: street sweeping, graffiti, trash, junkyards, that sort of thing. Furniture, all that stuff,” Adams said. “It’s complementary, but different.”

However, the dump and the camp are inextricably linked. Adams said community liaison reports on homeless camps will go through the city’s existing camp ranking system to determine which ones the city deems “highly impactful,” based on a variety of factors.

Adams said the emergency order, if enacted, would consolidate all of the city’s trash removal efforts into a leaner, more organized system.

The four neighborhood committee chairmen who attended the meeting told World Wide Web Some details of the plan remain unclear: the parameters of the plan, for example, and how neighbors will be involved in the cleanup.

Ben Taylor, a board member for the Concordia Community Association, said he hopes the plan will prevent neighbors from taking matters into their own hands and do more harm than good: “What the city is doing right now is letting people do their own thing. We’re thinking out competing strategies, like people trying to clean things up themselves,” Taylor said. “Without the leadership of the city, people would react differently.” (Taylor did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting.)

In seven hotspots across the city, Adams has held meetings between community leaders and city officials for about a year. Conferences take place in the Downtown and Old Town, Gateway, Central East and Delta Park areas, among others.

Tensions between homeless Portlanders and business owners may be at their worst in downtown, where over the past six months, community leaders and others from people involved in homelessness, trash and graffiti have The department’s municipal staff meet for half an hour a week.

Downtown Community Association president Walter Weyler told World Wide Web For months, he has been meeting with staff at various city bureaus, including the Portland Police Department, to discuss specific camps and areas downtown that he believes need the most attention. He said the meetings were chaired by Tom Miller, the mayor’s director of livability and sustainability.

He said when Weyler reported a particular campground, it took no more than two weeks for it to be cleaned.

The meeting with community leaders was somewhat of an experiment in what Adams and the mayor hope to expand citywide.

adams told World Wide Web The camps reported at the meeting did not cross the line, nor did the new program launch.

Another notable feature of the Adams plan: The community association’s first stop for graffiti removal will be the mayor’s office, not the Office of Community and Civic Life, a beleaguered office responsible for graffiti cleanup that has been run by two of the city’s two major graffiti cleanup sites for the past four years. One of the most progressive and controversial commissioners: first Chloe Eudaly, now Jo Ann Hardesty.

Eudaly works to reduce the outsized influence of the Town Hall Neighborhood Association by weakening the Neighborhood Watch Program and eliminating the Foot Patrol Program. A common criticism of community associations is that they give wealthy homeowners a greater say in how cities work than other groups.

Adams’ plan marks an attempt by the mayor’s office to revive community groups’ involvement in the cleanup — an increasingly visible and flammable problem in Portland.

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