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POL Government Elected Officials Commissioner Amanda Fritz Blog
Occupy Portland - Printable Version - October 19, 2011 - 10 Comments

On Tuesday, October 17, I walked from City Hall across SW 4th Avenue to Terry Schrunk Plaza, where I met for an hour or so with a gathering of about 50 citizens.  Many were from the Occupy Portland demonstation camping at adjacent Lownsdale and Chapman Parks.  A few had come to an event organized by the Multnomah County Library on the other side of the plaza - thank you to the Library staff who graciously allowed me to share the space.

 

I had not been publicly involved in Occupy Portland discussions prior to Tuesday.  The Mayor is in charge of Police and Transportation, Commissioner Fish is in charge of Parks, and the City Attorney provides expert legal advice on behalf of the City.  This past weekend, I was invited to set a time to talk with protesters about community involvement and civic engagement in Portland.  Since this area falls under my responsibility as Commissioner in Charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and supporting citizen participation is also my passion, I accepted the invitation.

 

Lesson # 1: It is very difficult to have a friendly conversation while talking through a bullhorn.

 

Lesson # 2: If using the bullhorn makes the conversation more accessible for all, use the bullhorn.

 

Lesson # 3: Holding a bullhorn for an hour makes a person's arm ache for the next 48 hours and counting.

  

Lesson #4:  A good public address system is quite useful in addressing a crowd.

 

Bullhorn management challenges notwithstanding, I enjoyed talking with Occupy Portland protesters and others gathered for the question and answer session.  People took turns and listened to each other and to me with respect, even with occasional disagreements within those gathered or with me.  See KATU for coverage and a short video clip.

 

It was interesting that the very first question asked was, "What do you see as the role of the media in this issue?"  My answer was the same as in any other venue: With the best will in the world, there is always more to an issue than can be written or talked about in a small space/timeframe, so if you see a media report that leaves you wondering, please contact me or my office to find out more.

 

I stated repeatedly throughout my visit that I was speaking only for myself, and that the Council as a whole has not taken a position on the Occupy Portland movement or the City's approach to it. 

 

The Mayor's Frequently Asked Questions responses are here.

 

My personal comments:

  • I support and swore to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, State of Oregon, and the City of Portland.
  • I support the Constitutional right to free speech and free expression. 
  • The City has the right and responsibility to set reasonable regulations that impose time, location and conduct parameters in which that free expression may occur.
  • The City's laws and ordinances are all important, because each was adopted with a specific public purpose and long term good in mind.
  • The City does not and cannot enforce every law and regulation uniformly, but must use discretion often, given limitations of time and resources.
  • Either the passage of time, or a change in conditions, could result in a change in the decision not to enforce the anti-camping law at the Occupy Portland site. 
  • Day-to-day operating practice does not alter the laws or the City's right to enforce them.
  • The Occupy Portland movement demonstration camp is in a pair of City parks intended for all to enjoy during the day, and to be closed at night. With Occupy Portland, the two parks are now single purpose -- for this movement's participants' use 24/7. 
  • Ultimately the Parks must be returned back to their true purpose for the use of all Portlanders and visitors. 
  • I do not have a particular timeline or deadline in mind for this.  It depends.
  • The parks will require repairs which at this point seem destined to be paid for by all the taxpayers of Portland. I appreciate the Occupy Portland members who have stated they will work on fundraising for this purpose. 
  • I appreciate the efforts participants are making to self-monitor and promote a safe and clean environment in and around the parks.
  • I appreciate the work of Portland Police officers, Clean & Safe security and cleaning staff, and other employees, contractors and volunteers who are providing services and maintaining public safety in this location.
  • I appreciate the concerns of the Portland Business Alliance and others, who are using their free speech and freedom of expression rights to voice the desire for the City to end the occupation soon. 
  • Many Portlanders share the value of allowing free expression on the full range of issues, including those connected with the Occupy movements. 
  • I believe the demonstration in this place, time and manner must end at some point, ideally with participants engaging in other means of civic involvement in Portland and with our congressional delegation.

I invited those gathered in Terry Schrunk Plaza on Tuesday, to come inside City Hall on Wednesday morning to engage in Portland's open, participatory, effective democratic system by attending the regular City Council hearings.  While few did, I renew my invitation to those gathered, along with all Portlanders to engage your City Council.  

 

I encourage the Occupy Portland movement participants to take their message, energy, and passion inside, and work throughout our communities with other advocates already addressing issues the protesters care about. There are 582,000 people in Portland's 95 neighborhoods, many of whom might be allies.  If Occupy Portlanders were to articulate their message and attend gatherings in these neighborhoods, and local, state and national organizations devoted to the same purposes, many more may join the chorus.   Our congressional delegation needs to hear from many citizens about the problems we all face in these trying times, and we all need to work together to find both immediate practical solutions to survive the recession, and long-term sustainability of the economy and jobs base.   

 

I look forward to continued dialogue with all community members, on Occupy Portland and on the many challenges facing Portlanders in these tough times.



Comments

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Posted by: Lee Albaugh - October 21, 2011 07:52 AM

The mayor, and the city, are charged to enforce our laws.  Why must I obey them if you are free to choose which ones to enforce?  My wife works by the park being "occupied" "illegally".  She fears to walk by the park now.  Why can the Mayor use tax-payer funds to fly half way across the world in a time like this, when he is charged to enforce our laws in Portland?  Why must the tax-paying citizens be charged with police and clean up overages? It seems the Portland Police should investigate and charge the Mayor for circumventing the laws of the City.  Perhaps the true Citizens of Portland should wake up, and recall the Mayor.  We do need a revolution of sorts, but it should start at City Hall.

Posted by: Amanda Fritz - October 21, 2011 08:49 PM

Thank you for your comment.  I work and walk by the parks too, and I continue to feel safe there even late at night, however if your wife is threatened she should call 9-1-1 and an officer will respond immediately.  There are often four police officers on duty in and near the parks, and all of Central Precinct's resources just a block away.

We do not have enough staff to enforce many laws.  Some drivers who don't come to a complete stop at a Stop sign may get away with it, some receive an oral warning, some a written warning, some a ticket.  I suspect many citizens disobey some laws at some times, such as tall grass in the yard, or jaywalking, or speeding. Enforcement is based on staffing and case-by-case decisions, for many minor offenses.

We are managing this camp on a day by day basis, considering resources and balancing rights and responsibilities.

Posted by: Matthew Gordon - October 23, 2011 01:33 PM

I am an advocate of campaign finance reform, corporate regulation, the right of free speech, and the right of assembly. While I support the occupy Portland movement in these goals, I am horrified by the current condition of the parks and the state of lawlessness that has largely taken over. The small group of people who are truly interested in making positive changes are rapidly losing control to the anarchists, drug dealers, mentally ill, and homeless.

Posted by: Amanda Fritz - October 23, 2011 11:23 PM

Thank you for your comment.  I disagree that there is a state of lawlessness in the parks.  Police officers are present at all times, and are enforcing laws - currently except for the anti-camping ordinance.  The turf was ruined within a few days of the start of the Occupation, and the protesters have pledged to fundraise to restore the parks after the demonstration ends.

People suffering from mental illnesses and those experiencing homelessness camp outside every day of the year in Portland.  Those protesters interested in making positive changes are experiencing some of the challenges the Council manages daily.

Posted by: Lauralee Ware - October 24, 2011 02:07 PM

Occupy Portland  does need to move  on to some specific action beyond sleeping in the park and waking the streets.  Recently, I have been reading about the Supreme Court and  their actions with corporations.  When I read that they enjoy the rights given to conscious human beings such as rights of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and fourteenth Amendments I feel angry. They hold more legal rights than people do.   Recently I read the Ted Nace book,"Gangs of America". He tells of the history of the supreme Court and the Corporations. Near the end he gives some specific actions that citizens could act on for change. The August 2011 puplication of Hightower LOWDOWN (www.hightowerlowdown.org/sites/hightowerlowdown.civicactions.net/files/1108Lowdown.pdf) and the CTJ & ITEP Newsletter or July 2011 give information on these matters.

Posted by: Matthew Gordon - October 24, 2011 08:37 PM

The Portland Tribune quotes the Associated Press with the following...

Violence

“When night falls in Portland, for instance, protesters have been dealing with fights, drunken arguments and the display of the occasional knife,”

Drugs

 "One man was arrested on marijuana possession charges in the camp."

Lawlessness

"Police have also documented an increase in shoplifting and vandalism around the camp since it was created."

Also worth mention are the recent arrests of two previously convicted criminals who were "participating" in the occupation.

Commissioner Fritz, please tell me that you are closely following all of these elements and fulfilling your duty to govern over a healthy and safe Portland.

Posted by: Amanda Fritz - October 26, 2011 11:07 AM

Thank you for your comments.

Yes, my staff and I are working with the Mayor's staff while he is out of the country.  The Police and other City bureaus are closely following these issues and reporting to the Mayor's office.  The incidents you note show that the Police are making arrests when behaviors indicate the need to do so.  We are all working to maintain a safe and healthy Portland.

Posted by: Bob Boikin - October 30, 2011 08:42 AM

The city has spent a quarter million dollars in police overtime coddling these selfish individuals. The parks are trashed. And the politicians are too sheepish to do anything about it.

The majority of Portlanders make me proud to live in Portland. The city's gifts to select developers and now the vagrant takeover make me embarassed of Portland's leadership.

Posted by: Amanda Fritz - October 30, 2011 02:55 PM

Thank you for your comment.  Yes, providing public safety while protecting the rights of free speech can be expensive.  Portland's costs in police overtime are considerably less than the expenses of managing Occupy events in other cities, and has been more peaceful.  Our police overtime costs are also less than other events we manage downtown, such as the Rose Festival.

The protestors and their supporters have pledged to fundraise to restore Chapman and Lownsdale parks after the protests end.

Posted by: jennifer Pedersen - October 31, 2011 09:01 AM

It appears that Portland elected officials are not acting like they were elected by the people of Portland but instead being guided by their own views of the federal government, constitution and free speech.
I have worked downtown for 16 years and am disgusted and do not feel safe to walk around the whole disaster of Occupy Portland. I have walked through the park several times at several times of they day and do feel threatened. I was offered weed on on occasion and heckled on another. I did bypass a river of urine, as well.
You have come up with a retort for all negative feedback on the occupation, so I give you kudos for that. Overtime is less than the Rose festival? I'm not sure how you can compare the events of a sanctioned community event with a handful of professional protestors and homeless folks who are working illegally to block the parks from the rest of us.
Did you know that Citykids daycare located in the City building uses the park for the kids to get fresh air and play. Since the Occupy is safe and all okay, I wonder why all those kids aren't using that space?

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