Mayor responds to Gateway area crime concerns

and, find out what else Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke about, when he visited the Gateway Area Business Association recently …

Folks gather in the El Indio restaurant, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, for a Gateway Area Business Association meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

When Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler came to speak at the February meeting of the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA), his prepared remarks highlighted economic development in the area.

But of more interest to the some 55 people attending February 8 were issues of crime and homelessness.

Before the meeting begins, indefatigable Gateway area booster Fred Sanchez of Realty Brokers poses for a photo with Mayor Ted Wheeler.

“I’m pleased to be asked here to meet with folks from GABA again, because Gateway really isn’t that ‘far out’; in fact, it’s actually the geographic center of our city,” Mayor Wheeler told East Portland News. “And today, I’m out here sharing with the community some of the things that we are working on, and highlighting some of the investments were planning to make in the near-term – but more importantly, listening to the concerns of people who work and live in the area.

GABA Treasurer Lisa Ortquist CPA, of Gulde & Ortquist, PC, introduces the meeting – and Mayor Wheeler.

“We’re seeing that Prosper Portland [formerly the Portland Development Commission] is working on the ‘actions’ of the Gateway Action Plan, adopted in 2016, to focus limited resources on near-term endeavors to better position this area for strong economic growth,” Wheeler began.

The Gateway Action Plan, Wheeler said, takes a geographic approach, focusing investment around three areas:

  • Halsey/Weidler Business District: Funded at $20 million,
  • Gateway Transit Center: Funded at $8 million, and,
  • Central Gateway: Funded at $2 million.

Mayor Ted Wheeler reveals progress being made implementing the Gateway Action Plan.

“There is also an ‘Opportunity Fund’ of $5 million dedicated to help the area, but with no geographical boundary,” Wheeler added.

So far, the Plan has spent about $5 million investing in the NE  Halsey and Weidler Streets couplet area, including providing funds to help Portland Parks & Recreation build the Gateway Discovery Park. It has also provided technical and financial assistance to 13 businesses in the district, and partnered with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to make “streetscape improvements’ in the area, enumerated Wheeler.

In the future, commented the Mayor, some of the resources may help fund the development of:

  • “Halsey 106”, a mixed-use, mixed-income development
  • “Generations Gateway Intergenerational Center”, and
  • Developing 10-acres near the Gateway Transit Center into:
    • a senior assisted living skilled nursing center
    • classroom and laboratory space for higher education and workforce training
    • a community and fitness center
    • a performing arts center
    • new office and retail space, and housing
    • an urban elementary school

Jack Hagan of Northwest Flyfishing Outfitters pointedly asks about crime in the area.

The Mayor then opened the meeting to questions from attendees, and Jack Hagan of Northwest Flyfishing Outfitters expressed concerns about crime and livability in the area.

“In the 16 years my business has been located here, there have been people defecating on my doorstep, and roughing up customers coming to my business –  but I don’t see police here,” Hagan stated, “I know the same thing is happening all over the Gateway area, and has been going on for quite a while; when can we get help?”

Wheeler responded, “I speak about 15 times a week, and this is the #1 issue that comes up. I remind people that in the 13 months I’ve been Mayor, I’ve increased the funding [to add] 62 community policing officers.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Neighborhood Response Officer Joe Brown says that, with current staffing levels, officers typically spend their entire shifts running from call to call.

“I can’t answer specifically about why you’re not seeing police officers, what we are in the process of is adding more officers, as well as Portland Parks Rangers,” Wheeler said.

The Mayor also remarked that the city has established an RV Removal Program to get derelict “campers” off the streets.

“We’re also working to increase effectiveness of livability issues like removal of trash and hazardous waste materials; but, to stand here and say that these things are be happening right away, would be disingenuous to you,” Wheeler said, adding that he asks for the community’s support for increased police officer funding.

Mayor Wheeler asks for support of a bill that would allow Portland Police to clean up transient camps.

Connie Shipley of Capturing Your Life Stories, asked Wheeler to comment on news that the Oregon state legislature’s considering a measure to allow Portland Police to go onto Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) right-of-way locations to deal with quality-of-life issues.

“Without some specific legislation, these ODOT right-of-way areas are ‘off-limits’ to Portland Police; we’re legally not allowed to do anything on ODOT property to clean up garbage, clean out camps, remove trespassers or ameliorate other livability issues,” Wheeler said.

During the last week of February, the Oregon legislature sent a “homeless clean-up” bill to the Governor for her signature.

In an earlier hearing on the bill, Oregon Senator Rod Monroe (D-District 24) conceded that its purpose was to help ODOT and the city coordinate in uniformly prohibiting encampments, and to keep the homeless from evading sweeps by simply moving across property lines, as well as to simplify providing services to the homeless.

Should this bill be signed into law, the Mayor told reporters that it would allow the city to offer its expertise in social services, and ODOT would be more focused on the “bricks and mortar” issues related to camp cleanouts.

Attendees listen as Portland’s Mayor answers questions about crime and livability.

Another audience member asked, “Do you have any plans to help cannabis businesses, help them get through the licensing process more expeditiously/”

Wheeler responded, “I support the cannabis industry; voters in the state approved it and want it to be a regulated, taxed industry. This means it should be treated like any other business. I see it as an economic opportunity for our state and our community.

“There have been licensing problems causing conflicts between state and local regulation,” Wheeler acknowledged. “We’re streamlining the process to reduce the ‘hassle factor’ of getting permits.”

Wrapping up the meeting, Mayor Wheeler asks the group to support his policies and funding requests.
Asked about the ever-present homeless issue in the community, Wheeler commented, “We’re trying to create a compassionate response for truly vulnerable people with help social services, mental health services, and addiction services.

“But people who are committing crimes, be they homeless or not, that is not a homelessness problem, it is a criminality problem that we’re addressing that through my efforts in policing,” Wheeler said.

Meet with GABA on March 8
The Gateway Area Business Association meets again on March 8 from noon until 1:00 p.m. Great hot Lunch costs $10. They’re meeting at El Indio Mexican Restaurant, 11114 NE Halsey Street.  For more information, see the GABA website: CLICK HERE.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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