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Well, that didn't last long

Street Roots had traded ad space for annual membership dues in the Portland Business Alliance. Since Street Roots has a great working relationship with dozens of businesses in downtown and throughout the city, it was our hopes to be able to forge a better relationship with the business community through being members of the Alliance.

Mike Kuykendall with the Portland Business Alliance informed Street Roots today that the organization would no longer like to run the ad and that the relationship had ended due to an editorial ran in the August 21st edition. We were told by the Portland Business Alliance (from their perspective) that the editorial itself was yellow journalism and that the Alliance couldn’t support having an ad in the newspaper with that kind of reporting.

Street Roots stands by both its reporting and the editorial.

Read the editorial after the jump.

Monsters and Men! Right here in River City!

It’s hard to tell fact from fiction in downtown Portland these days. The police and business community have outdone themselves with a public relations ploy that aims to make our city seem more like a zoo than a healthy downtown feeling the repercussions of an unforgiving recession — all because of a sidewalk ordinance.

Where to start? In late June, a Multnomah County judge ruled the sit-lie ordinance unconstitutional (the second time in a seven-year period a judge has made such a ruling).

Two weeks later the police bring The Oregonian on an all-day stakeout on homeless individuals round Pioneer Square. From a second story window, the police kept watch on targeted individuals, waiting for them to commit low-level crimes such as littering or jaywalking. Arrests were made.

One week later, another stakeout operation. More arrests.

The police say that without the sit-lie ordinance, a violation coming with a possible fine and community service, they are forced to continue conducting surveillance on people downtown — making petty arrests that come with possible jail time and a record that could disqualify individuals from accessing housing.

Down the street, elected officials sit on the sidelines, forgetting that they actually supervise the police, and that the police don’t get to drive policy decisions and public relations about homelessness in Portland; in essence, sending out the alarm that without sit-lie, downtown has become Gotham City.

We’re all tired of wasting time with petty ordinances about sidewalks when we could be using our collective energy to push for poor folks to have access to health care and housing. Let’s just state for the record that, despite the lip service from City Hall, it really doesn’t matter what Street Roots or any other homeless advocacy organization or newspaper in town says or reports. And it apparently doesn’t matter what the judicial system thinks either. And now the Portland Mercury is reporting that the city is working on crafting another sidewalk ordinance. Fantastic. Real progress, City Hall.

This, in the metropolitan hub of a state that’s now No. 1 in the nation for homelessness, No. 2 in unemployment and No. 3 in hunger. Big businesses are laying off workers and small businesses are simply failing. High school drop-out rates are alarming and the resources designed to help those in need are choking in this financial drought. And as all this pressure was building, the city was building high-income housing, while low-income housing decreased nearly 23 percent in the past three years.

And still, homeless people are being blamed and punished for the economic woes downtown. It’s that instinctual scapegoat mentality that pits people against each other rather than encourages common goals and solutions. But we go on chasing our tail, which is usually where people at the grassroots level alienate themselves by saying something out of turn, like who’s crazy now? But that’s where it’s at: punishing homeless people, right now, in the press and on the ground, is crazy.

The police stings downtown and the PR spin making monsters out of men and women who are homeless, blaming them for realities bigger than any one person can grasp, is an embarrassment. If the same fever was put into asking the public to be patient and to educate people on why people are homeless and how to get involved and interact with people on the streets — we would be talking about truly becoming that extraordinary city on the hill.

Posted by Israel Bayer