Saturday, June 24, 2017

News from the Continuum

There's apparently been a recent uptick in the number of livability complaints from downtown businesses, in response to which, the City is planning to remove "a couple" of benches from outside Liberty Plaza, and looking at a possible rewrite of its "sit-lie" ordinance.  See here.

We can't quite figure out which part of the Salem Revised Code constitutes the "sit-lie" ordinance, but we're surmising it's somewhere in Chapter 95 (Miscellaneous), possibly SRC 95.700 (Pedestrian Interference).

As Councilor Kaser explained it, one may stand, sit or lie on a sidewalk, as long as one is not impeding pedestrians.  One may also lean on or back up against a building, if one is handy, as long as the building isn't posted with No Trespassing signage, or the signage fails to include the correct code reference.  So, you'd think it'd be okay to sleep on a bench, as they're out of the way of pedestrians.  Presumably, that's why they're being removed from around Liberty Plaza, and, as we reported last week, from outside the Center Point office building on Cottage Street, (see below), not so much to prevent people from sleeping on them, perhaps, as to prevent them answering the call of nature on nearby properties.

The situation's apparently got some people really very upset and angry.  Like the tenants of property owners who came to CANDO last week, wanting the City to do something about the same sort of problem over on Church Street.  Only in that case, the owners don't want benches removed, they want HOAP removed.  The thinking is, one may suppose, that if whatever gives comfort is taken away, "they" will leave.  Where they go doesn't matter.  In the immigration context, it's called removing "the pull factor."

The U. S. District Court ruled Portland's "sit-lie" ordinance   unconstitutional, back in 2009, and the city's not tried to fix it, for reasons one may imagine.  Does Salem's decision to consider a rewrite of its ordinance signal a shift away from its oft-stated view that "we're not going to arrest our way out of this"?  Seems kinda like it, but we'll wait and see what Chief Moore has to say.  In related news, it seems that the Urban Development Department is reporting that City funds will be used to return two “arta potties”, removed last fall from their locations behind the Bishop Building and on Front Street, back to downtown, though it's not known when.  Seems like adding toilets makes more sense than removing benches, but there is the ongoing cost to consider.  

Speaking of cost, the board of Directors of the Council of Governments met last week, and voted unanimously to authorize their director, Sean O'Day, to negotiate an intergovernmental agreement between it and Salem, Keizer and Marion County, whereby the latter will pay for, and the former will "house a Program Manager who will oversee implementation of the Mid-Willamette Valley [sic] Homeless Initiative Strategic Plan."  The decision appeared to rest on O'Day's recommendation to proceed, and his assurance that COG would not be responsible for any of the costs.  COG budgeted $54,935.73 for the position, which is just a half FTE, perhaps because Salem has yet to approve the $65,000 it's expected to put up (Marion County is putting up $45,000, and Keizer $5,000).  Sixty-five thousand would maintain a couple of toilets for maybe, ten years?

Word has gone out to the provider community that Union Gospel Mission  director, Bruce Bailey, has resigned.  Bruce came to Salem and UGM in May of 2015 from Illinois and the Salvation Army to reinvigorate the capital campaign to build a new men's shelter on the property currently occupied by the UGM store and admin offices.  He replaced Mike Rideout, who  resigned in late 2014.  Among the challenges he faced were serving on the MWHI Task Force, and the decimation of his overflow capacity by the fire marshal during one of the coldest winters ever.  We found Bruce to be thoughtful, direct, and very hospitable (UGM hosts the Emergency Housing Network's monthly meetings that includes lunch).  Another recent shift that feels like a loss is Salem Health's decision to terminate the original joint management agreement that formed OHSU Partners and also joined Salem Health's and OHSU's financial "bottom line."  According to information given Salem Health's Community Sounding Board, "the structure was both innovative and complex and simply wasn't working in the way it was originally intended."  We speculate that the uncertainty at the federal level might have figured in the decision.     

No comments:

Post a Comment