City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has filed a draft resolution extending the sit/lie ordinance for an unspecified period (rumored to be five or six months) while she conducts a public involvement and outreach program with City Commissioner Nick Fish.
Fritz's resolution comes as a surprise. Earlier this week we reported that Mayor Sam Adams intended to push for a renewal of the ordinance, due to sunset on June 8, without the 3-vote majority he needed. The mayor's staffers were even telling anti-sit/lie activists on Tuesday that Adams would file the resolution yesterday, but it seems Fritz is now willing to take responsibility for fixing the law.
As we reported in last week's news section, Fritz has stated that she has civil rights concerns about the ordinance. Fish and City Commissioner Randy Leonard are also inclined to vote against a renewal of the ordinance until funding can be secured for Fish's resource access center for the homeless in Old Town. But Fritz's compromise resolution looks to be lining up for a 5-0 slam dunk vote next Wednesday.
"Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were not on City Council at the time the Sidewalk Obstructions ordinance was adopted and are Commissioners in charge of Housing (Fish), and Human Relations and Neighborhood involvement (Fritz)," reads a copy of the draft resolution obtained by the Mercury this morning. "These Commissioners want to engage citizens in a City-wide public process to discuss important issues in the SAFE package and related matters."
The aim of the outreach, according to the resolution, is "to engage citizens not only in evaluation and potential improvements, but also in working towards reconciliation in considering many aspects of the SAFE package."
My first thought on finding out about this news was: More outreach? Fritz and Fish were both present at an official outreach session on the ordinance last August. They were also present at a truth commission hearing on the ordinance organized by homeless nonprofit Sisters of the Road. Those sessions took place downtown. Meanwhile, Fritz's new outreach effort intends to involve neighborhoods across the city.
Fish and Fritz are yet to respond to the Mercury's inquiries, seeking comment. I also have a call in to Monica Beemer, Executive Director of Sisters of The Road, seeking their position on the extension.
"I've been taking photographs of all these little cafes downtown with all the accoutrements that go with that, and I'm planning to bring those to the council session," says Dale Hardway, a member of Sisters' Civic Action Group, which has been organizing against the law. "It's a bad law, and it's pushing homeless people off the streets. I don't like the ordinance and I don't like where we're going with the budget. It's just pushing people around and the services they promised to provide have never materialized. They're talking about cutting $6m from the budget for homeless services, but potentially tying up $200m for a convention center hotel, $80m on these two stadiums, a $3m overrun on the city's accounting system, but they can't even fund services for the homeless. It makes no sense, it really doesn't."
Update, 2:18pm: Fritz still hasn't returned inquiries personally, but does make some comments in this press release sent to the Mercury, Willamette Week, Tribune and Oregonian this afternoon.
The final resolution calls for a council hearing on the sunset of the ordinance by September 16.
"We're disappointed and frustrated," says Sisters of the Road Executive Director Monica Beemer. "We feel like the ordinance is clearly a civil rights violation for people experiencing homelessness, and there has been lots of public process on this."
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