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corporate dominance | economic justice

PBA VP IN NEW POLICE CHIEF BAND USUAL SUSPECTS

While many radical activists applaud both the firing of Police Chief Sizer and removing the Police Bureau from (the unfortunately reelected) Dan Saltzman, the Portland Business Alliance continues to have the 'reach' into the power centers of the city, ie, the new police chief's band features the VP of PBA.
PSU Progressive Student Union has organized, over the past year, three pickets: one at Portland Business Alliance (for their Vice President, Bernie Bottomly, being the primary NGO actor pushing -- successfully -- to gut Fareless Square in downtown Portland), and two against so-called nonprofit multi-million dollar slumlord, Central City Concern.

PSU-PSU (together with Transit Riders Union and Tenant Rights Projcet) plans to hold a 2nd PBA picket shortly. However, while we are happy to see both Rosie Sizer get canned as Portland Police Chief right before the May primary election by the mayor, as well as see the Police Bureau taken away from city commissioner Dan Saltzman (unfortunately, Saltman beat all eight of his opponents in the election) -- we also note that the newly-appointed police chief, Mike Reese, has a band, The Usual Suspects (not the Brownshirts??), which features, as one of the group's musicians, a different Vice President of the Portland Business Alliance.

In San Francisco, in the late 1970s, Harvey Milk, before his assassination as a city supervisor, worked on, among other Left wing issues, having transit riders and poor folks represented on the board of the city's transit agency, and advocating for tenants and low-income folks against landlords, slumlords, and the real estate industry in San Francisco at that time (including advocating for rent control, which is so far illegal in the state of Oregon).

Here in Portland, in 2010, Portland Business Alliance personifies the 'matrix' of real estate interests and policing to 'criminalize' the homeless, transit riders, tenants and others who -- in the words of one Business Manager for a local nonprofit -- 'lack credibitlity.'

PBA has pushed sit lie, twice now. PBA pushed gutting Fareless Square. PBA has contracts for Clean and Safe with Central City Unconcerned, the nonprofit liberal slumlord which Tenant Rights Project has organized against for two years. PBA also contracts with TriMet and Portland Mall Maintenance, as well as an 'enhanced' security nonprofit which seeks to 'patrol' downtown locations to keep the area open for capitalist consumerism -- without the untidy folks who might be homeless or possibly engaged in industrial activity (informal sector) with substance distribution and sales, being 'so visible.'

A recent thesis by a Reed senior (Tom) on the history of Portland's marginalization of the poor and homeless in downtown Portland (copies are available, but it is 100 pages long!) notes that business interests [such as PBA in PDX] have historicaly sought to 'subcontract' criminalizing the mere existence of (the increasing numbers of) the poor from the 'sight' of the consumer tourist class. The current recession, job layoffs, home foreclosures, creates more tenants, and then, more homeless to 'criminalize.'

A recent lead editorial by the Oregonian in favor of the new Sit Lie 2 law proposed by liberal Portland mayor Sam Adams and unanimously adopted by the liberal Portland City Council, noted that Powell's Books (and streetcar chair Michael Powell) is having terrible trouble selling their books to the tourist trade because of all the poor people blocking the sidewalks downtown in and near the Powell's Books retail location, etc. The Oregonian editorial noted that as much as 25% of Powell's sales come from the tourist trade, and the tourists need to be able to spend their money without having to step over the informal sector entrepreneurs who do panhandling, or homeless folks trying to sit, lie, or sleep, etc.

The Oregonian's lead editorial on this matter was called, Portland's Panhandling Paradise, and the paper later noted that the anti-sit lie testimony it objected to the most -- before the city council unanimously re-enacted sit lie 2 -- was the comment by a Sisters of the Road staffer, Richard Walden, without naming Richard or Sisters by name -- who said that passing sit lie 2 would interfere with 'business' practices in downtown Portland. Richard did, however, specifically criticize, by name, Portland Business Alliance. The Oregonian seemed to think this demonstrated how crazy and far out the homeless advocates are -- how dare they oppose capitalism as usual.

Bob Caldwell, longtime Oregonian editorial page editor, who has met with PSU Progressive Student Union, over time, on six different occasions -- Bob Caldwell spent one two hour meeting with activists praising, from his visits to Ukraine and Russia (post-USSR), "free trade" as the best possible tool for spreading democracy and peace in the world, ipso facto.

In terms the police protecting 'business as usual' and promoting industrial capitalism, not only does the new police chief have a Portland Business Alliance Vice Presdient playing in his rock band, but the new transit mall and downtown cops have been rousting, attacking, targeting homeless and other none-three piece suit types on a variety of pedestrian and sit-lie type beefs in recent months. Some of this has included attempts at retaliatory evictions of troublesome (aka "activist" tenants) in downtown SRO buildings who simply want their slumlord landlord to fix persistent pest control problems, deal with lack of repairs and crime inside the buildings, and provide a modicum of transparency and accountability to tenants by nonprofit landlords like Central City Concern.

In terms of the police harassing pedestrians on the downtown mall and near Powell's Books, Progressive Student Union recently did 'court support' for two different groups of pedestrians and tenants in Multnomah County Courthouse, on the same day (Wednesday this past week): tenants fighting landlord lies on the sixth floor of the courthouse, and a pedestrian targeted for a $150 fine for alleged jaywalking.

While three tenant organizers seemed to have their case well in hand on the sixth floor of the courthouse, a disabled woman pedestrian was crying in traffic court as both the right wing judge and the cop (both white males) who issued the jaywalking ticket -- were reluctant to negotiate at all. (In traffic court, the police act as lawyers and do the 'plea bargaining' for diversion classes, etc., before the judge hears the 'case' briefly from the ticketed offenders, ie, taxpayers, citizens, voters).

The cop in question, and the judge, appeared to absolutely refuse allowing the disabled woman pedestrian to go to diversion class (the judge suggested that disabled people would be hard pressed to learn anything in traffic safety classes to improve their ability to not jaywalk -- 'you will have a winning ticket' if that works, the judge said). Once the court support volunteer showed up and started asking (polite) questions, both the cop who gave the citation and the judge appeared to back down, and agreed, reluctantly, to let the disabled woman go to traffic safety class (which negates having to pay the $150 fine).

In summary, the business ties, government and NGO groups which benefit from Portland being "open for business" seems to mean that homeless people, pedestrians, tenants (not to mention people trying to cross with the green light in the sidwalk and dodge TriMet buses!!!) -- do not benefit from the Porltand Police serving business interests ahead of the people, in their everyday lives.

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