My Relationship with Portland Police: It's Complicated

In recent weeks, Portland City Council has achieved the seemingly impossible -- making even more of a mess of our DOJ settlement process than we already had. We need to change the culture within our police department that creates an unnecessarily adversarial relationship with the community. We need to repair the trust between our police and the community, in particular communities of color. We need to have meaningful community oversight. And we most especially need a Mayor and City Council that does not shut the public out of this process or sign off on bad deals with the police union that only serve to further alienate concerned and impacted community members and undermine efforts toward transparency and accountability. 

I came of age as an activist during the first Bush administration and the Gulf War. This was the era during which Portland earned the nickname "Little Beirut." I was at the protest on September 20, 1990, where Portland Police turned on peaceful protesters and began indiscriminately beating and arresting them. My friend, Anne Hughes, was among those who were arrested. She ultimately sued the city and won a settlement. I left feeling deeply shaken. It was the first time I had directly witnessed citizen's rights being violated by law enforcement. My only experiences with police to that date had been circumstances in which they were there to help, not harm. It was a pivotal moment for me. Instead of discouraging me from participating in future protests, it helped set me on a path of lifelong activism. 

Three years later, I helped organize an event at the X-Ray Cafe. While a seemingly endless stream of punk bands played inside on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was outside making sure people weren't obstructing the sidewalk or interfering with traffic. Suddenly, a line of police cars pulled up, blocking eastbound traffic, and officers in riot gear began lining up in the street. I walked out to the nearest officer, a woman, politely identified myself as an organizer and asked what was going on and what they wanted us to do. She gruffly ordered me back onto the sidewalk. Later police would claim that organizers refused to identify themselves or cooperate with them, but what we did, with no clear direction from them, was shut down the show, clear the club, lock the doors, and encourage everyone to disperse. We had no idea what had brought them to the event, were certain that we had done nothing to warrant having our show shut down, but didn't want to endanger our friend's club or see people get hurt. While many people left, there were dozens who held their ground in protest and we watched as police presence continued to build, they blocked off westbound traffic and readied to close in on the protesters armed with batons, pepper spray, and guns. 

From the Oregonian

From the Oregonian

This event, which would later be called the "X-Ray Riot" didn't end well for the protesters, the club, the neighborhood, bystanders, or police themselves. Dozens were arrested, many of whom were young people who were passing through town for a conference in Vancouver, BC. But one notable arrest was made, that of Douglas Squirrel, who Portland police had decided was a radical ringleader and would later claim had organized the "riot", when in reality he had only come to the event after the police showed up with first aid supplies in case of injuries. While bail was set for others at $5000, his was set at $50,000. Squirrel would ultimately sue the city (Squirrel v. Moose) and win, uncovering illegal surveillance of activists by Portland Police in the process. 

James Chasse

James Chasse

In 2006 I heard about the death of James Chasse after a brutal police beating just a few blocks away from my bookshop. It would take awhile for me to realize that this was a man who I knew as a fixture of NW and downtown Portland, a quiet and gentle soul who was an occasional visitor to my shop. I would later learn, when I published a zine by Erin Yanke and Alec Dunn about James' life and death as a fundraiser for the film Alien Boy, that he was an early Portland zine publisher and that we had numerous friends in common. James experienced mental illness. He was housed, supported, and loved. He didn't pose a threat to anyone, and he didn't do anything to deserve being assaulted and allowed to die in the back of a police car. Although I championed the film, it took me nearly a year to watch it. I am still haunted by those images and fact that James did not receive true justice, as the responsible officers were not held accountable for their actions.

As a result of the officer involved deaths of James Chasse, Kendra James, James Jahar Perez, Raymond Gwerder, Keaton Otis, Jack Dale Collins, Aaron Campbell, Darryel Ferguson, Thomas Higginbotham, Brad Morgan and others, The Department of Justice investigated and sued the City of Portland, finding that, "Portland police officers engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force against individuals with actual or perceived mental illness." And it is the resulting DOJ settlement that is in the news and causing so much contention today. Our process has broken down, the public and the police force have lost faith in the settlement, the out-of-state experts we hired to facilitate this process have resigned, our Mayor has failed to move us forward toward compliance, and the recent vote of City Council represents no net gain for the community as far as transparency or accountability.

Now, everything I've said thus far may lead you to believe that I have a bias against our police force. That is simply not the case. I am also a person who owes my life to Portland Police officers who rescued me from a life-threatening situation with an armed assailant as a teenager. I appreciate the hard job that our police officers are charged with, the stress of putting their bodies and lives on the line, and the trauma of what they are exposed to on a regular basis. I could not do their job. I know that most of our officers are good men and women, who have high codes of conduct, and do not threaten and endanger citizens for exercising their civil rights, having a mental illness, or being a person of color. I want them to be safe, just like I want all of our citizens to be safe. That's why I look to local community advocates with great expertise on these issues like Jo Ann Hardesty and Kathleen Saadat. I take the determination by our City Auditor seriously, who says that the contract, "fails to address a number of issues related to police accountability that may undermine the public’s trust in the City’s ability to hold officers accountable.” And why I support Campaign Zero. Campaign Zero is a set of national policy solutions and best practices developed by activists associated with Black Lives Matter to limit police interventions, improve community interactions, and increase and ensure accountability. All of these issues are relevant to the challenges that we are facing in Portland and across the country today.

There was no legitimate reason for Mayor Hales to push these contract changes through with just three months left in his term and with the renewal date months away. I shared the hope with many advocates for police reform that our Mayor-Elect would speak out on this issue, seeing as the contract renewal will happen on his watch. Now it remains to be seen whether he can turn this process around or if we will continue to see a disintegration of public faith and trust in our City Council and our police force.

 

 

Are You Experienced, Revisited

"I'm surprised by how many people think that running a small business wouldn't provide ample skills translatable to serving on City Council -- it worked for Bud Clark -- but I haven't "just" been running a business. I've been a community activist for 25-years, volunteering my time to a variety of social, economic, and environmental justice issues. I'm also a trained and experienced disability advocate, who for the past 12 years has been advocating at the community, school district, city, county, and state levels for things like inclusive education, accessible recreation, family and person-centered practices, and better supports for families and individuals with disabilities."

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Rent Crisis: Coming to Your Doorstep Soon!

Whether you're a renter or a homeowner, I'm sure you're aware that Portland is in the midst of our worst housing crisis in decades. Cost are high, vacancy is low, wages are stagnant, and new people are moving here at the rate of 100+ a day. And because developer, home builder, realtor, and landlord interests conspired to take away regulatory tools such as rent control, just cause evictions and mandatory inclusionary zoning, we find ourselves in a compromised position as a city to stabilize our rental market. 

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Clean Up Portland Harbor- Last Day For Comments

With just 12 hours left for public comment on our Superfund clean up proposal, I am pleased to announce the endorsement of Bob Sallinger and Travis Williams, two of Portland's most dedicated and knowledgeable environmental advocates! You are just one click away from letting the EPA and members of Oregon's congressional delegation know that you're not satisfied with the polluter friendly Superfund clean up proposal currently on the table.

Here's mine:

Dear Ms. McCarthy,

Please don't let a lack of political leadership and will on this issue result in Portland not getting the Superfund clean up it needs and deserves. This is our one chance to remedy decades of abuse of our precious shared resource by industry polluters. We need a more aggressive clean up than the one that's been proposed. We need measurable outcomes, not monitored natural recovery. We need to honor the treaty rights of Native Americans. And we need a river that's safe for humans, plants, and animals.

Thousands of Portlanders have commented, I hope you can hear us.

Sincerely,
Chloe Eudaly

 

Overworked and Underpaid 911 Operators Are a Recipe for Disaster

As a survivor of a violent crime and the parent of a child who has had two life threatening medical emergencies, I was horrified to recently discover that 911 wait times on off-peak hours could run 7-10 minutes and as high as 24 minutes during peak hours. That's a long time to wait when your safety and/or life is at risk. Those precious minutes could be the difference between life and death for someone.

From NW Labor Notes: "These photos taken by a 911 worker are of the “hold clock” showing the longest current hold time. The 24 minute hold took place on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. One call that came in at that time was about a distressed swimmer; by the time first responders arrived it was a body recovery."

From NW Labor Notes: "These photos taken by a 911 worker are of the “hold clock” showing the longest current hold time. The 24 minute hold took place on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. One call that came in at that time was about a distressed swimmer; by the time first responders arrived it was a body recovery."

Frustrating as it might be, I can somewhat understand why a City Council made up of people who are comfortably ensconced in homes that they own, and can afford, does not feel the urgency of the housing crisis that is affecting over a quarter of our population. However, accidents, illness, and crime can touch us all, so how have we allowed the situation at our Bureau of Emergency Communications to get this bad?

The forced overtime referred to in the today's NW Labor Press article can mean 12-hour days, 18 days straight in some cases. Due to seniority based scheduling some workers may not get a weekend off for years. This is a high stress work environment that takes an emotional and psychological toll on workers. 911 operators aren't receptionists -- they are first responders. They are the lifeline between a person facing a dangerous situation and the help that they need. If anyone needs and deserves fair scheduling, it's the people our lives depend on. One of the unique features of Portland's form of government is that members have administrative authority over the bureaus assigned to them by the Mayor. Ideally, that means City Commissioners add value to the work of professional staff at city bureaus. It also means that the public has a way to hold bureaus and Commissioners accountable for successes and failures. It is hard to imagine a more dramatic management failure than the labor situation at 911.

As with many of the issues we're facing in Portland, housing is a hidden part of this conversation and is a big part of why BOEC is so short-staffed. With market rate rents only affordable to households earning at least 120% of Median Family Income (MFI), and home ownership options for those earning under $100K rapidly disappearing, Portland is not an easy place to live for the hard-working public employees who make our city run. When we invest the considerable time and money it takes to train a worker to do this vital job, and then they end up moving elsewhere to do the same job, for a similar amount of money, because they can't afford housing we have a serious problem. I shudder to think what it's going to take to get the City to resolve this dispute. I hope it doesn't come at my family's expense or yours. 

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When We Fight, We Win!

I was proud to stand with Portland Tenants United, along with dozens of housing activists and renters today to demonstrate against a local rental management company that is displacing eight low-income households in East Portland with a 40%+ rent increase when they have neither adequately maintained their property or offered any additional amenities, and they know full well that their tenants cannot pay the increase. During the rally we got word that the company had vacated their former offices earlier this week and were willing to negotiate with the tenants who have now formed their own association and have presented the company with a list of demands.

Stop Exploiting Tenants! 

Stop Exploiting Tenants! 

This is only the latest story in the growing tide of Portland residents who are being denied the basic need and human right of safe, stable, and affordable housing in our city. This is an emergency, yet our city, county, and state have failed to act in any meaningful way to address it. Local advocates have repeatedly demanded that our leaders declare a state of emergency due to man-made disaster and material loss of rental housing (as laid out in ORS 91.225(5)) in order to institute a temporary rent freeze until the legislature takes action to lift the statewide ban on rent control. Our cities and municipalities need to be given back these regulatory tools in order to stabilize rents and put an end no cause evictions.

If 150,000 cost-burdened renters, 16,000 people doubling up with friends and family, 2000 people in shelters and transitional housing, and nearly 2000 more sleeping on our streets every night isn't an emergency, I don't want to know what is! The man-made disaster is greed and corruption which has led to a material loss of rental housing and the impoverishment and/or displacement of tens of thousands of our residents.

Rent Crisis Refugee

Rent Crisis Refugee

It's not enough to throw up our hands and look to the state for solutions. If Portland City Council wants to make a real difference in the lives of the 50% of our residents who are renters, and rent control and just cause evictions are currently out of reach, I suggest they do the following (this is not a comprehensive list but a nice start):

  1. Pass a resolution demanding that the Oregon Legislature remove the statewide ban on rent control and make it our top legislative priority for 2017.
  2. Institute a "Tenants Bill of Rights" including but not limited to the policies proposed by Ted Wheeler. I'm especially fond of the idea of setting up an office for Landlord Tenant Affairs and creating an online database for rental applications and background checks. 
  3. Extend the notice period for no cause evictions and rent increases over 5% to 6 months. 
  4. Require or provide relocation assistance to tenants being displaced by major rent increases and/or no cause evictions equivalent to three months rent.
  5. Cap security deposits and move in fees at no more than one month's rent and mandate that deposits be held in an escrow account.
  6. Provide rent vouchers to households who are extremely low income or otherwise vulnerable (seniors, people with disabilities, etc.) and cost-burdened by rent to stem the flow of renters into our homeless population (this will save us money in the long run!).
  7. Ban rent increases by landlords who are renting substandard properties and failing to keep up with necessary maintenance and repairs. 

How many renters have to be cost-burdened, impoverished, displaced, and/or made homeless for our elected leaders to act? How many of us have to go without other basic needs such as food, medicine, or healthcare just to keep a roof over our head before housing is recognized as a fundamental human right? How many of us have to become rent crisis refugees while trying to keep our jobs and our kids in school before we realize as a society that we are not only undermining the success of individual households but of entire communities and our shared future? 

As dire as this situation is, I am heartened by the growing momentum behind the housing justice movement and the progress we've made in the past year. Keep loving, keep fighting, Portland! Because when we fight, we win!

Warehousing the Homeless Is Expensive, Inhumane, and Ineffective

One of the frustrations of being a candidate is having to watch from the sidelines while City Council makes decisions on the very issues that inspired me to run, but I’ve done my best to weigh in on the issues of the day in a way that increases community dialogue and input. Together with other disability advocates, I helped persuade the Portland Bureau of Transportation to include adaptive bikes in our $10M Biketown bike share program (pilot program coming next year), I joined advocates for affordable housing in speaking out against requiring blanket parking minimums in Northwest Portland, and I’m doing everything I can to inform and engage the public on the Portland Harbor Superfund Site Cleanup Plan.

Few issues have made me wish I was already a member of City Council more than the current discussion around rezoning Terminal 1 in order to create a mass homeless shelter or “campus” currently dubbed "Oregon Trail of Hope". This questionable one-size-fits-all effort will take $100M in public and private dollars to build and up to $15 million a year to operate. The most troubling aspect of the current proposal is that the interests promoting this idea seem to be using their money and status to leapfrog any substantive vetting of the idea. If I were on Council, I’d be listening to the voices of people who are most affected by this issue -- people who are currently experiencing homelessness -- as well as housing and homeless advocates, and environmental experts who have raised multiple red flags over Terminal 1, which is located in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site and is currently zoned for industrial use only. 

Terminal 1 Aerial View

Terminal 1 Aerial View

I’m personally opposed to applying economy of scale practices to human services which often leads to inappropriate and inhumane treatment as well as unnatural and unhealthy concentrations of marginalized and vulnerable people. There are many causes of homelessness including mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, job loss, low wages/underemployment, chronic illness, disability, and displacement due to rising rents. We have individuals, couples and families, teens, elderly, and disabled homeless residents. Where is the dignity is concentrating 1800 people together with disparate circumstances, challenges, and needs in an isolated industrial area? You don’t have to dig deep to find a number of alarming details about the inspiration for the T1 conversion, a homeless campus in San Antonio Texas called Haven for Hope, which frankly doesn't give me much hope for this use of T1.

San Antonio homeless shelter Haven for Hope in San Antonio placed large fans in its "Prospects Courtyard" during the summer of 2015. (Bob Owen/San Antonio Express-News)

San Antonio homeless shelter Haven for Hope in San Antonio placed large fans in its "Prospects Courtyard" during the summer of 2015. (Bob Owen/San Antonio Express-News)

As a candidate for public office, I’ve got my eye on where my opponent’s campaign contributions come from. For instance, I know that one of the promoters of this idea, Dike Dame, contributed $5,000.00 to Commissioner Novick’s campaign, and other supporters have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to various local politicians. As Thomas Piketty points out in his book Capital in the 21st Century, for every dollar earned in wages in our country, people who own capital earn four. If we continue to let wealthy interests dictate public policy, the gap between average citizens and people who can afford to contribute large sums of money to political campaigns will continue to grow, and the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our community will continue to be inadequately served. 

If the wealthy interests backing the mass shelter at Terminal 1 are sincerely interested in helping people in need, they will donate as much or more to the Yes for Affordable Homes campaign as they have to local politicians. The Yes for Affordable Homes campaign will generate resources to provide permanent, safe, affordable housing for nearly 3000 low income residents. And while we may disagree about siting a mass shelter at Terminal 1, there is broad consensus that the number one answer to homelessness is housing. 

"After the house we were renting was foreclosed on, we lived in our car for a month…  living in this affordable housing has been lifesaving. Here, you feel self-worth and dignity." From Yes for Affordable Homes

"After the house we were renting was foreclosed on, we lived in our car for a month…  living in this affordable housing has been lifesaving. Here, you feel self-worth and dignity." From Yes for Affordable Homes

 

 

Small Business Supporters: Andrew Neerman and Eric Isaacson

I opened my bookshop in 1994 on SE 37th off Hawthorne. We're now on our third location and everywhere we've been I've gotten involved with neighboring businesses and/or the local business association, because I recognize that the health of each individual business affects the whole, we can be more effective as a group than on our own, and I enjoy the sense of community that comes with working together with others. After 17-years of cheerleading, organizing, and promoting what was affectionately referred to as the Indie Rock Block (SW 9th & Oak) or the Acorn Block, I immediately joined the Historic Mississippi Business Association when we relocated to North Portland, and became the Vice President shortly thereafter. During my tenure I worked on membership, marketing, and bringing a strong locally made/locally owned presence back to the Mississippi Street Fair. I'm proud to count so many of my neighbors as supporters, including:

  • Bryan Steelman (Porque No? Taqueria)
  • Jim Brunberg (Mississippi Studios)
  • Sara Kolp (Flutter)
  • Sarah Shaoul (Black Wagon)
  • Hilary Holmes (Emerald Petals)
  • Amanda Furbee (The Herb Shoppe)
  • Alex McFarland (North Portland Bicycle Works)
  • Nancy Fedelem (Salty's Pet Supply)
  • Debbie Petricek (Gumbo Gifts)
  • Eloise Augustyn (Sweedeedee)
  • Andrew Neerman (Beacon Sound)
  • Eric Isaacson (Mississippi Records)

Andrew and I became friends while my shop was closed for nine months during our relocation from the West End to N Mississippi Ave. when I started shop sitting at Beacon Sound because I missed being behind a counter! Then I encouraged him to join me on Mississippi Ave. where we've co-hosted music/lit events with the likes of Bruce Pavitt, Calvin Johnson, and Jessica Hopper. He and Eric Isaacson, along with Ezra Ereckson, co-signed this lovely endorsement. Thanks, neighbors!

VOTE CHLOE EUDALY FOR CITY COUNCIL

Dear fellow Portlanders,

We want to strongly encourage you to vote for Chloe Eudaly for City Council. Ballots have been delivered by mail and are due by May 17. Though we generally don’t see electoral politics as an effective path towards social justice, on the local level your participation can be crucial for enacting progressive policies that will directly impact your life for the better.

Many of you will know Chloe from her bookstore Reading Frenzy, which has been supporting small and independent presses since 1994. But, as a longtime renter, she has also become an important voice for tenant rights during the current housing crisis that Portland is experiencing. There is a ton of work to do right now, as Portland absorbs more and more people, to ensure that we remain a city that lives up to our aspirations: to be a place that actively supports economic and cultural diversity, a place where people are able to live close to where they work and play, a place where people from all walks of life can safely get around. Our current City Council has not done nearly enough to stay ahead of the curve. This is not a time for timidity or indecision.

As Chloe herself writes, "Portland is facing a crisis of disconnection, and we need representatives who are directly in touch with the challenges that the majority of our residents are facing, not just career politicians and political insiders.” We trust Chloe to represent the people of this city with the utmost integrity and to stand up against regressive political forces, like the Portland Business Alliance, the Homebuilders Association, and the Oregonian editorial board, that often stand between the political will of our elected leaders and the need to make tough choices and bold moves. We trust Chloe to work with her City Council colleagues to enact policies that will prevent displacement and homelessness by protecting renters, support small businesses and cultural organizations, and expand public transit choices and bicycle infrastructure.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Andrew Neerman (Beacon Sound) 
Eric Isaacson (Mississippi Records)
Ezra Ereckson (Zamzam Sounds)

 

Bernie Says: Get Big Business Out of Politics and Restore Our Democracy

When I announced my candidacy for Portland City Council Position No. 4, I made a pledge not to take contributions from entities that stand to profit by doing business with the city. Considering Steve Novick is an enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporter, I thought he would take a similar stand, but in fact he's accepted contributions from potential responsible parties in our Superfund Clean Up site such as Greenbrier, the Oregon Home Builders Association's disingenuously named PAC "Oregonians for Affordable Housing", and Portland's least favorite developer Vic Remmers of Everett Custom Homes who's steadfastly tearing down beautiful old homes in order to make room for a big dose of the suburbs in the city. In fact, I am the only candidate out of the presumed top four, not taking contributions from developers and other monied corporate interests. 

I support publicly funded elections -- one of the best ways to keep big business out of politics -- but in the meantime I'm calling on Steve Novick and all progressive political candidates to return any questionable contributions and focus on the people of Portland, not the profit big business wants to make at their expense.

Women Can't Wait 500 More Years!

Happy International Women's Day! Did you know that it will take 500 years for women to be fairly represented in US government at our current rate of progress? Do you also know that there is a strong correlation between the number of women in legislative positions and progressive policymaking regardless of their party affiliation? I may be a political outsider, but I'm no stranger to politics. Over the past 25+ years I've devoted my time and energy to fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia, and agitating for women's reproductive rights, disability rights, environmental protections, living wages, police accountability, better schools, freedom of speech and of the press, affordable housing, renters' rights, and peace. 

Rad American Women A-Z, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl at Reading Frenzy

Rad American Women A-Z, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl at Reading Frenzy

I don't just spend my spare time on these issues, I created a mission driven business in 1994 when I was 24-years-old so that I could devote my life to progressive causes, while providing a vital outlet for independent media and underrepresented voices, as well as a hub of information, resources, activity, and connection for many marginalized communities in Portland. When I realized that Portlanders didn't just want to read indie media but wanted to make it, I co-founded the Independent Publishing Resource Center. When I learned that families raising children with disabilities were not guaranteed a home base in Portland Public Schools I helped make one when I spearheaded and co-founded the Special Education PTA of Portland. And when I had the misfortune of becoming cost burdened renter and had my stability under-mined by a no cause eviction and unchecked rent increases, I created and cultivated an online community of over 2000 Portlanders that serves as a clearinghouse for information and resources, a watchdog for illegal and unsafe rentals, and a springboard for activism and advocacy.

Alien Boy: A Zine about The Life of James Chasse (published Reading Frenzy, 2008)

Alien Boy: A Zine about The Life of James Chasse (published Reading Frenzy, 2008)

I'm generally pretty modest about my accomplishments -- this is just what I have to do to reconcile myself to how unjust the world can be to those who are vulnerable, whether due to gender, income, race, age, ability, or some other divergence from "the norm" -- but I've assessed my assets and skills and know that I have what it takes to be a great City Commissioner. Regardless of the outcome of this race, you can rest assured that I will spend the rest of my life fighting to make our city and our world more inclusive and equitable for everyone. Electing more women to office is a great place to start. I hope you'll join me! 

When We Fight, We Win! Book Release Party featuring Deymirie Hernandez, Greg Jobin-Leeds, Scot Nakagawa, Sharon Gary-Smith, Walidah Imarisha, and Jorge Diaz at Reading Frenzy (January 27, 2016)

When We Fight, We Win! Book Release Party featuring Deymirie Hernandez, Greg Jobin-Leeds, Scot Nakagawa, Sharon Gary-Smith, Walidah Imarisha, and Jorge Diaz at Reading Frenzy (January 27, 2016)