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Office of Equity and Human Rights

Realizing Equity. Enhancing the City of Portland.

Phone: 503-823-4433

Fax: 503-823-4420

421 SW 6th Avenue, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204

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Sidewalk Ordinance Letter to Council

Mayor Adams, Members of City Council;

On May 5, 2010, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) reviewed the proposed Sidewalk Management

Ordinance with the intent of determining our position on the ordinance and our role in ensuring that City

policies such as the Sidewalk Management Plan be implemented fairly and justly in our community.

Based on our mission and commitment to further the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights, we believe the ordinance infringes on human rights and we cannot support it.

Several concerns arose during our discussion which we would like to communicate to you. To begin,

we believe the title and focus of the Ordinance does not accurately represent the intent of the

Ordinance. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the crux of the ordinance, however the community

perception and understanding of this measure is much broader. Members of the Disabilities community

have communicated concerns to us regarding the dynamics this ordinance has created. It

unintentionally pits communities against each other while not considering other effective methods to

provide sidewalk passage and access. For example curb improvements may make a greater impact

than managing sidewalk usage.

From the HRC perspective the Ordinance restricts individual rights and creates segregated zones on

sidewalks that may unnecessarily separate people from one another. These restrictions and

separations affirm an existing negative bias in our city’s approach to people with mental illness, alcohol

and drug addictions, and people who are poor and homeless. The Ordinance grants police the

authority to move people who “are in the way” without addressing the root causes of their presence on

the sidewalks and without guaranteeing humane places to rest. The ordinance also creates

enforcement challenges which could lead to further negative impacts. We are convinced that citation

reports will show a disparate impact on these members of our community.

We want to assure Council that if the Ordinance passes, the Human Rights Commission is prepared to

play an active role in reviewing citation reports. We understand that the Sharing Public Sidewalks

Advisory Committee will receive enforcement data and we will work with this committee to analyze

enforcement patterns. Our Community and Police Relations Committee will request an opportunity to

evaluate the Police Bureau’s plan to enforce the Sidewalk Management Plan and provide feedback and

recommendations. We are also prepared to provide assistance and leadership with further dialogues

between affected communities to address inter-group tensions and misunderstandings.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide our perspective on this significant community issue.

Abdul Majidi, Chair

Portland Human Rights Commission