City Stops Enforcement after Constitutional Ruling
One of the most glaring black spots on Portland’s pristine liberal consciousness was excised late last week when Police Chief Rosie Sizer ordered her officers to stop enforcing the controversial sit-lie law.
Sizer’s decision followed a sweeping constitutional ruling by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong on June 19. “I ruled that [the sit-lie law] is preempted by state law,” says Bushong. “It prohibits conduct permitted by state law, and that’s not permitted under article 11, section two of our Oregon Constitution.”
The Portland Business Alliance (PBA) has been the driving force behind the law, even though PBA Vice President of Downtown Services Mike Kuykendall continues to insist that the law was not created to target homeless people. However, 133 of the 170 individuals who received warnings and citations under the law in its first 13 months reported being homeless. The city also failed to cite a single business owner under the ordinance, even though unlicensed sidewalk signs technically qualify for citation, according to city attorneys.
The PBA did not respond to inquiries seeking comment by press time.
“It’s great to see the end of this, because it was something that really looked unfair,” says Patrick Nolen, an activist with Soapbox Under the Bridge who has fought the law since its inception.
“I’ve been working for a couple of years on this and I’m happy to see it go away,” he continues. “Although I don’t think that just ‘not enforcing it’ is the way to go. I think we need to get it off the books because it’s still an unfair law.”
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz extended the ordinance for six more months in early May so that she and City Commissioner Nick Fish could conduct “outreach” around it. Fish was unavailable for comment by press time, while a Fritz staffer told the Mercury, “The commissioner is not ready to give interviews yet.”
The status of the planned outreach process remains unclear.
Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman says the city has not yet decided if it will appeal Bushong’s ruling. Meanwhile City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who has continued to oppose the ordinance on civil rights grounds, was busy climbing Mount Hood on press day and could not be reached for a victory comment. His chief of staff refused to supply one, either.