Mental Health Association of Portland

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“Prosper Portland” homeless solution dead on the vine, say police

Posted by Jenny on 26th March 2014

The Portland Mercury, March 26, 2014

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Earlier this year, Police Chief Mike Reese began showing off a flashy PowerPoint presentation around town.

To the district attorney’s office, to city commissioners and, most publicly, to the city and county officials gathered for a meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), Reese introduced “Prosper Portland,” a multi-tentacled initiative aimed at decreasing homelessness in and around the center city.

The proposal was sort of tough to get your head around.

It involved existing police efforts, but also folded in new agreements between the city and county over how camping and sidewalk-use restrictions should be enforced, and proposed use of “clean-up contractors,” who would sweep up the camps police dismantled. Reese said far more cohesion—between bureaucrats, business interests, social services organizations, cops and everyone in between—is needed to stem what he painted as a growing worry.

And then there was the involvement—already hashed out for weeks by the time Reese unveiled the proposal—of a local software firm called Thetus, which proposed taking wide swaths of city data to help Portland visualize and analyze its struggles with homelessness.

At the LPSCC meeting, as the Mercury first reported, there was widespread support for the plan. But sources within city hall say the reception there was far chillier, with some elected officials bristling that they weren’t told of the new effort and concerned about the fitness of the police bureau to lead an effort to stem homelessness.

Now, the police bureau appears to be scrapping the whole endeavor.

“As a plan, it died on the vine,” says police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson. “Last I heard was: There is no Prosper Portland. It was never anything more than a concept.”

That’s a swift change in fortune for an effort that sources say had been in the works as early as late 2013. And, though a call to Mayor Charlie Hales‘ office hasn’t been returned, it’s likely the change in tone has to do with backlash in city hall following Reese’s announcement.

Among those voicing concerns was Commissioner Nick Fish, the city’s former housing commissioner.

“It basically came out of nowhere,” says Fish, who asked for a private meeting with Reese after reading news coverage of Prosper Portland. “I think the police got over their skis.”

Fish explained he’s in talks with a Hales aide, Jackie Dingfelder, about homelessness and sidewalk enforcement—a topic that’s been a consistently thorny for the mayor since he took office last year.

“The mayor made it very clear to me and everyone else Jackie is the leader of this effort,” Fish says. “I think she would tell you it blindsided her as well.”

But if the chief’s vision for “Prosper Portland” has exploded, it’s unclear where its component pieces will land. Simpson says the police bureau’s going to take its own steps toward better policy, stepping up foot, bike and ATV patrols and talking with the county and TriMet about uniform enforcement policies.

He didn’t think the bureau still planned to work with Thetus, the local software firm.

That was news, Tuesday afternoon, to Thetus CEO Danielle Forsyth. Forsyth’s company actually coined the name Prosper Portland. She’s been in talks with the police bureau for three or four months, she said, and the company recently hired an employee to help get the effort off the ground.

“I’m meeting with them tomorrow, and I’ll ask,” she said.

Thetus has also been in contact with the Portland Housing Bureau, overseen by Commissioner Dan Saltzman. But it’s unclear whether the firm has a place in the strategies being cooked up by Hales’ staff.

“What [Jackie Dingfelder] does with any of the component parts of Prosper Portland,” Fish says, “I don’t know.”

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Reaction to City Auditor’s memo on police review is mixed

Posted by Jenny on 30th October 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 29, 2013

Reaction was mixed Tuesday, a day after Portland’s city auditor sent a blistering memo to the mayor and city council members identifying “alarming lapses” in police accountability by top police command staff.

READCity Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade’s memo (PDF, 72KB)

READMHAP’s written testimony before City Council

Police Chief Mike Reese, whose two top appointees were identified in the memo as taking inappropriate action to either halt an internal affairs inquiry or duck an interview by an independent investigator, had little to say.

He refused to answer specific written questions about the issues raised.

“The City Council is currently weighing the proposed changes brought forth by the Auditor,” Reese said in an e-mailed response. “We will continue to have thoughtful discussions with the members of City Council in the coming weeks to answer any questions they have.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner and is out of town this week on a work-related trip to China, has read Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade‘s memo, his spokesman Dana Haynes said.

“He is aware of her memo. He has access to her memo,” Haynes said. “He has no comment on her memo.”

But City Council member Nick Fish said he understands the auditor’s frustration and wants to work to revive council action on the auditor’s package of reforms.

“We need to implement these changes to improve accountability and get this back on track,” Fish said.

In the Monday memo, Griffin-Valade said she felt that the mayor and council didn’t recognize the “urgency” and need to move forward with changes to strengthen Portland police oversight, as sought by the U.S. Department of Justice. While Reese testified before the council last week that the current oversight system “is working very well,” the auditor said that’s not the case at all, highlighting several lapses in accountability by two high-ranking police supervisors in the last six months.

“There’s been very recent activity within the high command of the Police Bureau that has caused our office concern,” said Constantin Severe, director of the Independent Police Review Division.

Under the auditor’s proposed reforms, the Independent Police Review Division’s civilian investigators would be able to question officers directly and compel their testimony. The division would be granted oversight of the bureau’s high-ranking civilian supervisors. The Police Bureau would have to inform the Independent Police Review Division whenever an internal affairs inquiry was halted, and the chief would have to explain in writing to the mayor every time he did not follow a Police Review Board’s recommended discipline for an officer.

The chief opposed each of these proposals, which were drafted specifically to address problems that occurred under his watch.

Fish said he believes there’s consensus on the council for most of the proposals, except two or three and would hope that any outstanding questions are cleared up over the next three weeks.

City Attorney James Van Dyke is expected to provide a legal opinion to commissioners by Friday whether allowing civilian investigators  to question officers directly and compel their testimony requires mandatory bargaining. Fish said he wants to make sure a proposed speedier 180-day timeline for completion of internal affairs inquiries is realistic.

“These reforms are important. I regret the auditor felt in any way that the council was being cavalier about these proposals,” Fish said. He added that he was somewhat confused about the proposals, due to lack of communication between the mayor and commissioners before last week’s hearing.

“What is clear is the auditor, the IPR director, the mayor and the police chief need to get in a room and work out their remaining differences,” Fish said. “Let’s fix the problem. Let’s go forward. I think we need to show some urgency.”

If no agreement can be reached, the council must act regardless, he said.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she was disappointed that the auditor has chosen to take her proposed police oversight reforms off the council agenda.

Fritz said she supported many of the proposed reforms, but doesn’t think they go far enough and suggested a stakeholder committee be created to examine them further.

Fritz said she, too, was “perturbed” by the chief’s characterization of a system that’s working well and his opposition to changes that would allow the Independent Police Review Division to conduct meaningful independent inquiries. The division is under the auditor’s office, not the Police Bureau.

“That’s why we have an IPR system and hopefully they can hold supervisors accountable,” Fritz said. “I believe there’s value in further discussion.”

But Severe described the proposed reforms as straightforward, meant to address the demands of the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal justice officials called for a package of reforms to police policies, training and oversight after an investigation last year found Portland police engaged in excessive force against people with mental illness.

“The things we’re asking for in the (city) code changes are pretty basic,” Severe said. “It’s like oversight 101.”

Severe said he opposed convening a a stakeholder’s committee on the proposed reforms, which have been discussed for several months and agreed to as part of a pending settlement with the Justice Department.

“For everybody to try to act like we’re in Casablanca and this is a surprise, is not fair, ” Severe said. “The way we’ve done oversight in Portland is based on personality, but you can’t have oversight based on gentleman’s agreements.”

Instead, convening a stakeholder’s group to address the broader question of what type of police oversight the community wants would make more sense, he said.

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City Council defers changes to IPR

Posted by Jenny on 24th October 2013

By Helen Silvis, The Skanner, Oct. 23, 2013

Police Chief Mike Reese

Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland City Council deferred a decision on a string of proposals from the auditor’s office to make changes to the Independent Police Review Division. The council will address the proposals Dec. 4 after more study.

Constantin Severe, IPR director, introduced the new proposals, which include: giving the IPR the power to compel officers to answer their questions;  expanding the citizens review committee from nine to 11 members;  allowing the IPR to open cases independently; and releasing more information to the public when officers use force.

“Our strategy is to implement the changes in the Department of Justice agreement that are most urgent,” Severe told city commissioners.

In 2012, a DOJ investigation concluded that the Portland Police Bureau operated with a “pattern or practice” that violated the civil rights of people with mental illness. The blistering report also raised concerns about police relationships with communities of color.

A long line of community organizations and citizens testified at Wednesday’s hearing, most urging council members to go further in strengthening the IPR and the citizens review committee.

READMHAP’s written testimony

“In no way do these recommendations address the depth and breadth of concern felt by citizens in our city,” said Michael Alexander testifying for the Urban League of Portland.

Police Chief Mike Reese introduced Capt. Dave Famous, who discussed graphs showing that both police use of force and police complaints have dropped considerably over the last 10 years.

Lt. Jeff Bell from the police bureau’s internal affairs committee said he opposed the recommendations to allow the IPR to initiate investigations and to compel officer testimony. The system currently allows the IPR to have their questions answered, he said. Changes to the current system would become an issue in negotiating the police contract. Bell and Chief Reese said several changes would be mandatory bargaining items.

“The bureau is not aware of any problems with the current system where the IPR participates in the investigation,” Reese said. “The current system is working very well. The IPR is able to participate in investigations and able to have their questions answered.”

Commissioner Nick Fish said he wanted to clarify if the change would become an issue in contract negotiation since lawyers advising the IPR and the Portland Police Bureau disagree.

Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner also raised the question of the rights of police under labor law and the police contract. He urged council members to reject the proposed changes, saying they would undermine the police line of accountability turning it over to civilians.

Jan Friedman, staff attorney with Disability Rights Oregon, said more transparency and accountability is needed to address the concerns raised in the Department of Justice report.

“If they don’t have access to police officers they are not able to do an independent investigation,” she said.

Kayse Jama, executive director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, said the changes don’t go far enough.

“We must do more and we must do it now, to achieve justice for the community,” he said.

“The oversight workgroup made 44 recommendations. Only four have been included.”

Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch also said the changes don’t go far enough.

“The changes only add power to the IPR professional staff while delaying changes that would strengthen its Citizen Review Committee,” he said. “IPR similarly pushed through a package of changes in early 2010 with virtually no public input, which led to the formation of an Oversight Stakeholders group. That group put out a report with 41 recommendations, only four of which were incorporated into the ordinance previously and only one more of which is being proposed this time.”

JoAnn Hardesty, of Consult Hardesty and a member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, said she spoke for herself and not the alliance. She reviewed the history for council members, and reminded them that the settlement with the Department of Justice was far from final, and had been created without public comment.

“The public did not have any opportunity to weigh in,” she said. “We have departments and bureaus operating as if a settlement agreement is in place.”

Portland still faces a federal court case. After the Department of Justice civil rights investigation found the Portland Police Bureau has a “pattern or practice” of excessive force against people with mental illness, the police union challenged items in the settlement agreement with the city.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the police union, the city and the Justice Department to find a solution through mediation. The Albina Ministerial Alliance was also allowed to participate as community representatives.  So far, the parties have failed to reach an agreement in mediation.

Judge Simon also has said he plans to hold a fairness review next summer so the public can weigh in on the final agreement.

Hardesty said that hearing will be important in deciding the fate of the settlement.

“The community fairness hearing will finally give the community an opportunity to weigh in on the settlement,” she said. And she argued the fall in complaints against officers only proved her point.

“There is a good reason why the number of complaints is down,” she said. “It’s because the community has no confidence that IPR or IA (internal affairs)  has the power to investigate the police.”

Council members, Chief Reese, Severe and others voiced concerns about the 180-day limit on investigations. Reese said many factors could prevent the bureau from sticking to that timeline. He said it should be looked at as a target not a deadline.

Community advocates, on the other hand, worried that the 180-day timeline would allow officers to escape discipline if the timeline was exceeded.

City employee Jeri Williams was one of several people who shared their own frustration with a police accountability process, the DOJ called “Byzantine” and self-defeating.

Williams son, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, had an adverse experience with the police. With tears in her eyes Williams said her experience had left her with “no faith in the process.”

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Called Out, Saltzman Now Seeking Up to $1.7 Million for Homelessness

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 18th August 2013

From The Portland Mercury, August 28, 2013

Commissioner Dan Saltzman‘s rapid education as the new overseer of the Portland Housing Bureau is continuing apace.

After taking flak in a Mercury story this week for letting Mayor Charlie Hales drive a seemingly big-stick-tiny-carrot approach to homelessness—and talking up an idea, $250,000 for shelters, that better-versed advocates quickly panned—Saltzman went on KGW yesterday to take credit for a broader-based package of reforms that he now says could pour up to $1.7 million into safety net programs.

He said the new money could come as early as next month. Saltzman didn’t get into this, but likely sources could include the city’s contingency fund, which Hales doubled in his budget to $3 million, or new revenue. The city budget office could have good news when it revises its forecasts next month.

Saltzman’s announcement came during a lengthy sitdown on “Straight Talk” that was recorded Friday and aired yesterday. It came after his chief of staff and, for the first time, Commissioner Nick Fish were invited to one of Hales’ informal information-gathering sessions on homelessness. (Invitations that magically came down a day after Fish first went public with his distaste for the status quo on Blogtown, and the same day our story ran.)

And the contours of Saltzman’s plan, submitted to Hales, at his request, in a memo late last week, sound a lot like what was hashed out at that city hall powwow. Talk of shelters, also previously mentioned by Hales as a bone to throw, was played down in light of something advocates say is much more cost-effective and beneficial: rental assistance and housing specialists.

“I’d have them sleeping in an apartment of their own,” Saltzman said when reporter Reggie Aqui asked where people sleeping outside could go if they’re not allowed to camp. “That’s one of the things we’re investing our resources in. Housing specialists…. If we can get them into an apartment and get them services to be successful, 70 to 80 percent are still housed even a year later.”

He also said “shelters are not the end-all solution by any means.”

Those well-calibrated statements suggest Saltzman has done quite a bit of studying in the past week or so.

When I sat down with him on August 9, his embrace of rental assistance was limited and he tried to put some distance between the kind of supportive services he discussed on KGW—mental health and addiction treatment, vocational training—and the housing bureaus mission. He said some of that is better provided by the county or city’s general fund. He also said Hales’ political strategy of pushing first with enforcement before coming forward with resources—something that blew up last week—was “sound.”

Saltzman, during that interview, said “one of his first priorities” was to “expand our shelter capacity and other rental assistance for homeless women in particular.”

He also said some people “aren’t going to avail themselves of shelter, even if we had unlimited capacity. Having said that, the mayor did mention finding additional resources to shelter. I’ll be talking to him next week about what his thoughts are so we can come up with some kind of strategy.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, leading efforts to streamline regional spending on housing and homelessness, publicly shared her distaste for that idea when I interviewed her. Advocates and staffers also pushed against it hard during the meeting with Hales last week.

Saltzman’s statements on KGW—a promise of additional city resources—also reflect a shift in his understanding of the housing bureau’s budget. He told me that he was miffed when social services advocates mounted a campaign for safety net funding this spring, a year after Fish and former Mayor Sam Adams worked out a deal that converted $4.6 million in housing funds from onetime money to ongoing money.

“I’m not convinced everything in the safety net is truly the safety net,” he said. “Suddenly we find out in this budget process that, well, [the $4.6 million,] that’s not enough for the safety net. My question is what’s enough? And what constitutes the safety net?”

Of course, that wasn’t the case. The funding campaign wasn’t about adding more money to housing. It was about persuading Hales and the city council not to burden it with the same 10 percent cuts other bureaus were being asked to contemplate. It was a successful campaign. The housing bureau was held harmless when it came to local money.

“Is that what they’re saying?” he asked me when I relayed that after saying I was confused.

So it was quite surprising, one week later, to see Saltzman on TV as the face of a new revenue push from city hall, pitching a sum that’s nearly half of that $4.6 million. Saltzman also was asked about Fish’s comments on Blogtown, which called Hales’ compassion into question, among some other ungentle prods.

“All of us are filled with compassion for people who are homeless,” Saltzman said. “We are very compassionate. What you’re seeing a little bit is the issue of a mayor to reassert the city’s right to keep the sidewalks clear and to have no sleeping in our parks.”

He said he could understand, when asked by [KGW's Reggie] Aqui, why the city’s approach so far—all sidewalk and camping enforcement—might seem like it wasn’t compassionate. But he followed that up.

“I also understand that some people want to know their sidewalks are going to be clear,” he said. “I guarantee you people do not want people sleeping in the parks. It may sound good in the abstract. But once a camp is established in the park in your neighborhood, you’ll be on the phone to my office or to someone in the mayor’s office saying ‘do something about this.’”

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Mayor and columnist spar in the pages of The Oregonian on the issue of homelessness

Posted by Jenny on 15th August 2013

Mayor Charlie Hales: We’re using a measured approach to take back Portland’s sidewalks

By Charlie Hales, Guest Column in The Oregonian, August 14, 2013

Mayor Charlie Hales

Mayor Charlie Hales

Lawlessness on Portland sidewalks is not a new issue, nor is it an easy one.

So this summer, we crafted a plan to address lawlessness on the public right-of-way. The plan is underway. It hasn’t been rushed. We’ll modify it. We’ll listen to the advice of others. And, with luck and hard effort, we’ll find the happy medium that improves the quality of life for Portlanders while adhering to the confinements of state law and our city ordinances.

We didn’t launch this plan citywide, but rolled it out slowly, so we could gauge its effectiveness and make changes where necessary.

It started at City Hall because we had an overriding public need at this, the people’s building. A number of people, apparently including members of the Occupy Portland movement, had been living on our sidewalks for months. Portland police recorded 113 calls for service to this one block in just the first 180 days of the year. There were reports of drug use, public drunkenness, fights and intimidation. Residents called my staff every week to say they felt threatened or harassed, and felt they could not access their own City Hall.

In July, we told these folks on the sidewalks that it was time to move on. We asked them to pick up their large piles of things — some personal belongings, some garbage. They would be allowed to protest during the day and to lay out a sleeping bag at night. But they could not set up residence on the sidewalks.

Many complied. The front of City Hall became cleaner and more welcoming. Protesters still protest at City Hall. They did before, they do today and they will always have that opportunity. Their First Amendment rights have not been altered.

Some of the lawless group picked up their belongings and moved across the street to Chapman Square.

During the first week in August, Portland police informed them that they can’t live on that sidewalk, either. Some complied. Those who didn’t were interfering with a police officer, which is a Class A misdemeanor. That means court appointments and, possibly, warrants for failure to appear.

We picked other hot spots throughout the downtown core and did the same. It was a measured approach. We saw five arrests the first day, zero the second and zero the third. Again: Our approach was measured and methodical.

The goal is to remind people of the social contract: Some activities are appropriate on our sidewalks, and some aren’t. It’s not just living on the sidewalk, but public sex, drug use — the kinds of lawless activities about which the great majority of Portland residents readily agree.

Will people still be able to have their voices heard at City Hall? Absolutely.

Is this a cure for homelessness in Portland? Of course not. That’s a huge nationwide and local issue that no one has been able to solve in decades. We’re committed to working on that issue in partnership with Multnomah County, law enforcement, social services and mental health organizations, homeless activists and the homeless themselves. I also want to work with the other large landowners in the area, including the railroads, Oregon Department of Transportation and TriMet. We all need to manage the properties we own.

Meanwhile, bit by bit, our sidewalks are becoming more manageable. The 600,000 residents of Portland have unfettered access to their City Hall and to more and more of the civic spaces of our city that, after all, belong to all of us.

Steve Duin: Yo, Charlie Hales! Politics are relational

By Steve Duin, columnist for The Oregonian, August 14, 2013

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin

When in the world, city Commissioner Nick Fish wonders, did Charlie Hales morph into Rudy Giuliani?

During the mayoral campaign, Hales was the thoughtful moderate on homeless issues. With the barbarians at the Fourth Avenue gates of City Hall, he turned — a la Giuliani, circa 1995 — into the law-and-order cowboy, conflating homelessness and aggressive panhandling, Fish said, and labeling “both an epidemic.”

The mayor’s rhetoric and disdain so annoyed the famously cautious Fish that he mounted the proverbial soapbox this week and went public with his complaints. Before a chastened Hales invited Fish back into the board room Wednesday, two things were clear:

Veterans of the homeless crisis — Fish spent almost five years running the Bureau of Housing — take the issue very personally.

And Hales’ amateurish, ham-handed management style appears set in stone.

As Israel Bayer, the executive director of Street Roots, notes, “Historically, this has been an issue that has gone sideways 20 different ways. It takes a surgical approach to do this stuff without it turning into a circus.”

You would think Hales understands that, given his 1992-2002 stint on the council.

Given the recession, local unemployment, the reshuffled bureau assignments and the usual summer influx of stragglers — “A perfect storm,” says Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury — you would hope the mayor would err on the side of inclusiveness.

He hasn’t. In his April State of the City address, he spoke of the “epidemic of panhandling and homelessness.”

Fish was appalled. “That’s very charged language. It’s the language of disease, and it’s inherently dehumanizing,” he said Tuesday. “There has been no sense of compassion for people who find themselves on the streets. This has been alarming to our nonprofit partners.”

As the Portland Mercury reported, even Bernie Bottomly, lobbyist for the Portland Business Association, cautioned Hales about mentioning “homelessness and sidewalks in the same breath,” and not drawing a distinction between status and conduct.

Yet Fish is more concerned that Hales has sought so little input from the coalition of advocates that has found housing for more than 12,000 families and individuals since 2004.

Despite Hales’ insistence Wednesday that he is committed to dealing with homelessness “in partnership” with the battle-scarred, Fish said he’s been excluded from the discussions.

The county has been similarly ignored, Deborah Kafoury said: “I was surprised that he wasn’t including the county, because we’re a huge provider of homeless services.”

It didn’t help last week when Hales, after finally cracking down on the camping outside City Hall, promised to increase funding for … overnight shelters.

Shelters? “Shelters aren’t at the top of anyone’s list,” said Gretchen Kafoury, a longtime homeless advocate who served on the council with Hales in the ’90s. “We want to get people into housing. The mayor doesn’t seem to want to pay attention to any of the work that’s already been done.”

Is he understaffed? Stubborn? Unwilling to share the stage? Hales used the word “we” 13 times in Wednesday’s Oregonian op-ed, but his sole partner at City Hall appears to be Gail Shibley, his chief of staff.

And what was the mayor thinking in assigning the Housing Bureau to Commissioner Dan Saltzman? “Dan has been very consistent,” Fish said. “He’s not going to be taking the lead on this.”

Bayer is urging calm. He thinks it’s unfortunate Hales began by framing the issue “in terms of lawlessness,” an entirely different conversation than “the lack of affordable housing stock in the city.

“It’s a media frenzy right now. I would like to believe that everyone has the right intentions. We’re just not on the same page.”

Late Wednesday morning, Hales turned a page. As Fish’s comments echoed around City Hall, the mayor finally invited his colleague to join an afternoon meeting with homeless advocates.

“I appreciate that Charlie is now reaching out,” Fish said. “I just think this is something we should have done two months ago.”

As anyone with a basic understanding of Portland politics should have known.

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Mayor’s meeting on homelessness includes critics, housing advocates, police chief, staffers – but not the Portland Business Alliance

Posted by Jenny on 14th August 2013

By Denis C. Theriault, The Portland Mercury, August 14, 2013

Mayor Charlie Hales, as of this afternoon, has now had three informal meetings with business interests, law enforcement, and social services providers to get up to speed on homelessness—a difficult subject he announced he’d be taking on during his State of the City speech this spring.

Hales’ office sent me the roster of participants for this afternoon’s meeting, which was listed on a public calendar his office sent reporters earlier this week. If you’ve read my previous posts about these meetings, which the Mercury first reported on, you’ll notice something new: The most recent roster now includes former Housing Commissioner Nick Fish and his staff (former housing policy adviser Sonia Schmanski), members of current Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman‘s staff (chief of staff Brendan Finn among them; still not Saltzman himself), and Sally Erickson, the Portland Housing Bureau’s homelessness team leader.

The list also includes Police Chief Mike Reese and, notably does not include, for the first time, the Portland Business Alliance.

Israel Bayer, Street Roots

Sally Erickson, Housing Bureau

Dennis Lundberg, Janus Youth Services

Commissioner Fish + staff

Commissioner Saltzman’s staff

Marc Jolin, JOIN

Doreen Binder, Transition Projects

Chief Mike Reese

Mayoral staffers


But while the meeting was scheduled last week, I’ve been told the additions of Fish and his staff and possibly others were last-minute. As in, the invitations came today, the morning after the Mercury first reported Fish’s complaints and the same day we ran our story about officials including Fish and Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury questioning the city’s leadership on housing issues.

Bayer told me the meeting was “productive” when I saw him briefly outside city hall and that Hales and his staff seeme”d open to a significant discussion about resources, not just law enforcement sweeps of camps and sidewalks. Yesterday, we reported that Street Roots wants to ask businesses and local governments to match the city in committing millions toward rent assistance.

WW today reported that Hales, as a result of the meeting, is less focused on something Saltzman said he wanted to work on: finding new shelter capacity. Kafoury, in our story this week, said that was an inefficient way of helping families, one of Saltzman’s passions.

Hales’ spokesman had this to say earlier this week when asked why Saltzman and the housing bureau weren’t part of the initial meetings:

“The mayor had focused his first meetings by accepting the help of those outside City Hall, because (he’s often said) it’s too easy to get info from ‘inside the bubble’f and tougher, but vital, to see the issue from outsiders’ perspectives. Also, the City Council can always compel Bureau staff to talk to ’em about any topic. And they do.”

Things change quickly in city hall sometimes. This morning, in light of Fish’s remarks, Hales told me commissioners “are always free to weigh in” with their thoughts and he “I don’t take that personally.” But he also said, “When I hear a cry from the heart, I listen.”

He clearly did. And none too soon. Because the media pile-on just got official tonight. City hall gets annoyed with me and Aaron Mesh. They really pay attention when Steve Duin weighs in. And Duin wrote a column today that echoes all the themes in my story in this week’s paper, with the added bonus of calling Hales a latter-day Rudy Giuliani.

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Hales metes out bureau assignments, keeps police for himself

Posted by Jenny on 6th June 2013

By Ryan Kost, The Oregonian, June 3, 2013

Charlie Hales

Charlie Hales

After months of keeping all of the city’s bureaus for himself, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales reassigned them late Monday, doling out major assignments to every commissioner while scrambling them considerably from where they were before he took office.

With the budget approved last Wednesday, Hales was finally free to redistribute the bureaus, which he had kept entirely in his portfolio through the four-month process. Though the mayor, who took office in January, had dropped hints that he planned to shuffle the assignments significantly, he still managed to surprise some council members.

“The mayor signaled a while ago to all of us that he thought there was value in rotating bureaus,” Commissioner Nick Fish said late Monday. “I think he has demonstrated, rather dramatically, that he kept that approach.”

Nearly every commissioner got a portfolio with some heft, though not necessarily in the places expected.

Fish, for his part, will be in charge of the Regional Arts and Culture Council along with both the Bureau of Environment Services and the Water Bureau. Together, the last two draw a considerable amount of public heat for ever-increasing rates.

While Fish said he was sad to see both the Housing and Parks bureaus move to other hands — both had come to define him on the council — he felt “honored by the confidence” the mayor demonstrated by his assigning him both utilities. The sort of equity issues that drew him to housing, he said, were present in his new bureau responsibilities as well.

“I’m actually very concerned about the impact of rates on people with fixed incomes,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman takes over the Housing and Fire bureaus. Both are big bureaus and, while unexpected, leave the impression of a bulked up portfolio for the council veteran. Saltzman, will continue to hold onto the Portland Children’s Levy, an issue he has long championed.

Conversely, Hales opted to strip Commissioner Amanda Fritz of the two offices she’s often fought for: the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Office of Equity and Human Rights.

Fritz, who has the fewest assignments, will instead manage the Parks Bureau as well as the Bureau of Development Services. Parks, in particular, is a significant bureau, but notably absent from her assignments is water, a bureau she has routinely criticized for poor fiscal management.

Fritz had left City Hall by the time bureau assignments were announced and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Neighborhood involvement and equity will stay with Hales, who explained in a statement that he hoped they would fit well with the Police Bureau, which he was also keeping.

“Blending those efforts strengthens each,” he said. “It creates a nexus of community empowerment. Plus, it elevates their profile.”

Aside from those two offices, the mayor’s portfolio is the only relatively predictable one of the bunch.

By keeping police, it appears he learned from the mistake of his predecessor, Sam Adams, who gave it away, only to have to take it back after a tumultuous stretch of problems rocked the bureau.

Beyond that, the mayor will also keep Management and Finance, another traditional bureau, along with the Portland Development Commission and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which he said fit well together.

That leaves Commissioner Steve Novick, the council’s newest face, in charge of the city’s largest asset, its roads, through the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

“It’s a big bureau with big challenges and big opportunities,” Novick said, adding that he was feeling “really good” about his assignments. With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deferred road maintenance, he said one of his priorities is figuring out how to raise more money for transportation.

Novick will also take charge of the bureaus of Emergency Management and Emergency Communications.

In his statement, Hales said he suspects bureau assignments are a “bigger deal inside City Hall” than outside the building, but were, nevertheless, important.

“You want your city’s elected leaders to manage their bureaus well, and to work together as an effective team,” he said. “So that’s our mission.”

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Steve Duin: In chopping the Crisis Assessment Treatment Center, Portland swings a mean ax

Posted by Jenny on 9th May 2013

By Steve Duin, The Oregonian, May 6, 2013

catc_map_62111In chopping CATC — the Crisis Assessment Treatment Center — off at the knees, Mayor Charlie Hales is only looking to finish what the Portland police started.

What remains to be seen is whether the cops’ stubbornness about the mental health facility is driving (a) the city’s budget priorities, and (b) a quick wedge between the mayor and Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen.

The timing of Hales’ announcement to eliminate $634,000 in CATC funding couldn’t have been worse, breaking even as the city announced a $2.3 million settlement for a deplorable cop shooting that left William Kyle Monroe, who suffers with bipolar disorder, permanently disabled.

But the mayor’s move also added to the perception — shared by the U.S. Department of Justice and many local mental-health advocates — that the police bureau considers its dealing with the mentally ill a colossal inconvenience.

After Cogen and former Mayor Sam Adams opened CATC with great ceremony in 2011, the cops acted as if the triage center didn’t exist.

Capt. Sara Westbrook, head of the behavioral health unit, dismissed the center as unworkable for police last spring, and remained wedded to her objections on its admission guidelines long after CATC revised them.

As The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein reported over the weekend, many patrol officers never knew CATC was an option. Never mind that almost 200 of the 1,300 people treated there were first dropped off by police at local emergency rooms.

“This wasn’t designed to make the cops’ lives easier,” Cogen reminds us. “This was designed for people having a mental health crisis. The real focus is that these 1,300 people have a place to go so they don’t run into the cops.”

Small wonder if Cogen feels betrayed. He partnered with Adams on CATC funding when partnering with Adams wasn’t easy. Briefed on potential budget cuts by Hales, he asked for one lone reprieve.

“I said to him very clearly, ‘The one I really hope you don’t cut is CATC,’” Cogen said.

The preliminary proposal was submitted for Hales’ consideration by Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick.

Fish is holding fast to his original diagnosis.

“We were charged with being provocative,” he said Sunday. “This is a healthy debate, and long overdue. And the more I look into this, the more I hear that there have been a lot of misgivings about CATC.”

Novick has a different take. Given the city’s financial stake in the center, he says, “It puzzles me that Sam never followed up to see if the cops were using it.”

Even more striking, he says, were the contradictory narratives that city commissioners heard from the police and county leaders garnered from their people about the facility.  “From the very beginning,” Novick says, “there have been two conflicting messages.”

Westbrook continued to argue CATC wouldn’t accept people who were a threat to themselves or others long after the center was beaming up a different message with the bat signal.

As Kevin McChesney at Telecare, which operates the center for the county, told Bernstein, its doors are open to anyone short of “the person swinging an ax.”

If there’s a lesson here about police bureau mulishness, there’s another one about leadership and attention to detail.

“Normally, the efficient and right thing for a political leader to do is listen to your staff people and trust what they’re telling you,” Novick said.

“But you have two organizations here — mental health and the police — who don’t naturally speak the same language. They got locked into these positions over the last year and a half.”

Which proves? “There are situations where political leaders need to dig into the weeds and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ Read the documents. See if there isn’t a misunderstanding instead of blindly following what their people are telling them.”

Novick met with Cogen on Monday. Off what he heard, he said, “There’s a stronger argument that the city should fund a portion of the CATC than I thought there was based on the information I had last week.”

Is that cause for Portland cops to join the conversation? Time will tell. Historians are skeptical.

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