Portland Clean & Safe District vote postponed until next week
Portland City Commissioners will wait a week to decide whether the Downtown and Old Town Enhanced Service District should continue to exist. The decision on whether or not to renew the District’s Clean & Safe contract to provide additional security and garbage removal services to the city center will also be voted on next Wednesday.
Thursday’s meeting was the last opportunity for public testimony. Written testimonials can be submitted until next week by emailing [email protected]
After next week’s vote, the municipal auditor will review the service districts, including the Lloyd and Central Eastside districts, and the organizations that manage them. If any changes are made to the city code after the audit is complete, the contract with Clean & Safe will be renegotiated. However, the verification could take up to two years.
“This is not the end of the conversation,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “This is just one step in the overall process. Going forward, we are committed to doing a full assessment (of enhanced service districts in Portland). “
WHAT ARE WE VOTING ON?
More than 400 businesses and downtown residents are currently funding the Clean & Safe program.
Operators of the Additional Services program have drawn criticism from homeless people, advocates, business owners and residents who have argued that Clean & Safe security guards unfairly harass homeless people and that the Portland Business Alliance, which runs the owner-funded program, has embezzled funds. .
Critics argue that security guards, who are often mistaken for police, use their image to blur the line of authority to push homeless people out of spaces where they are allowed to be. Additionally, critics say security guards are often tasked with responding to homeless people facing a mental health crisis but have no training in how to do so.
Earlier in September, the trade alliance pledged to make changes to the five-year, $ 25 million contract to address those concerns. These changes include equipping security guards in uniforms that set them apart from the police, allowing a quarter of security guards to carry guns at a time, and adding three mental health outreach officers. trained. In addition, a system will be created to allow people to file complaints about Clean & Safe workers. Security guards should also hand out a business card with details of how to report complaints to everyone they interact with.
Mark Wells, interim director of Downtown Clean & Safe, said he was excited to see the addition of the new mental health team. And Wheeler said he believed the new contract had “advanced the ball considerably.”
Sally Mize, a downtown resident, said she hoped the contract would be renewed because she felt more secure because of it.
“I feel safe, the workers (clean and safe) help us stay clean, they are very responsive and the officers are listening (to people),” Mize said. “I can’t imagine what we would do without them.”
In addition to funding armed and unarmed security guards, sidewalk cleaning, and garbage cleaning, the Enhanced Services District is also funding additional Portland Police Bureau officers for the 213 square blocks of downtown Portland. . However, under the proposed plan, the number of agents is expected to be reduced to four from the current six.
Homeless advocates argued at Thursday’s meeting that the changes were not enough and lacked clear accountability measures to ensure the changes. Critics said they were disappointed that security guards and police were still going to be funded in the contract.
“Honestly, it’s like a giant slap going through all of this,” said Kaitlyn Dey, who is part of the PDX Stop the Sweeps organization and has participated in the last six months of public testimony regarding the contract. “All we really get out of it are a few listening sessions where we’re not really being listened to.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said she was disappointed that the concerns of many stakeholders had not been addressed. She called for a more representative Clean & Safe board of directors and for the program to operate on its own without the Portland Business Alliance.
“We still haven’t answered the question, should improved service districts exist and how should they exist,” Hardesty asked. “There are changes, yes, but not big changes that the community has asked for. “
Part of the program’s nearly $ 6 million budget also pays for a post in the district attorney’s office, services to recruit and retain businesses, holiday lights, economic development, government relations and administrative costs. Administrative costs largely cover a portion of the salaries of Portland Business Alliance staff. Clean & Safe funding paid 45% of the salaries of 12 to 15 people who are shared between Clean & Safe and the Portland Business Alliance, according to the organization’s budget records.
Andrew Hoan, who is president of Portland Business Alliance and Clean & Safe, said the organization is able to provide more services in the field because it saves money by sharing administrative costs.
The city last month hired an enhanced services district coordinator, Shawn Campbell, who will provide advice to the city’s three districts and act as the liaison between the city, district and ratepayers.
While the city oversees the funding of the Clean & Safe contract, the organization is affiliated with the Portland Business Alliance. This means the city collects a fee from taxpayers, then passes it on to Clean & Safe, whose board decides how the funds are used, and then Portland Business Alliance implements those decisions.
During the July contract renewal listening sessions, residential taxpayers expressed concerns about the fairness of the organization’s decision-making procedures, arguing that taxpayers have little say in how the money is spent. Many said less money should be used to fund Portland Business Alliance staff and more should be used to bolster services residents care about, such as adding more mental health workers.
Anita Davidson, a condominium owner in the district, said she believes the pricing model and the way decisions are made to spend the money are unfair. And Forest Perkins, who is part of the Portland-based Democratic Socialists of America, said the new contract “does little to clarify how money flows between Clean & Safe and the Portland Business Alliance.”
While many applauded the effort to add three mental health outreach workers to the proposed contract, Hardesty backed down.
“It shocked me that we were hiring three people (mental health approach) in this contract knowing that Portland Street Response is a more holistic response,” said Hardesty. “Portland Street’s response could have been downtown and across town in July, but council voted not to. “
Nicole Hayden reports on homelessness for The Oregonian | OregonLive. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.