PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After months of upheaval and unrest between the pandemic and ongoing protests, Mayor Ted Wheeler released an update on his Downtown Portland Revitalization plan this week.
Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly have committed $100,000 toward graffiti removal around the city blocks where protests and the occasional riot are often located. So far, $60,000 has been invested. Focused on graffiti removal, trash clean-up, retail activation, and public safety, Wheeler’s plan is aimed at a safe reopening and the economic recovery of Portland’s downtown area, which is need of a boost.
Furthermore, three litter clean-up events have taken place since June. Over those three events, 11,000 pounds of trash were removed from the streets. Downtown Portland Clean and Safe has removed about 24 garbage trucks’ worth of trash, according to the mayor’s office. City Council is set to discuss code amendments that will allow for more trash and debris removal in their upcoming meeting on October 21.
According to his office, Wheeler is working various local partners such as the Old Town Community Association, Portland Business Alliance, Travel Portland and other public agencies in an attempt to shine a spotlight on businesses that are still open downtown. Together with the local partners, Wheeler and the city have come up with several marketing and engagement campaigns to reinvigorate the downtown bustle.
However, one downtown business owner said more still needs to be done. Gayle Ostling, the owner of Portland Kettle, said her business slowed significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that was just one part of the problem. She’s also had to deal with destruction and graffiti from vandals and said she can’t even walk down the street right now because there are too many tents.
“The destruction is ridiculous. I mean, we used to have a beautiful city and they’ve, you know, because of the destruction–it’s really too bad,” said Ostling. “I don’t see the city doing anything, but of course, that’s just me running my business.”
Ostling said she has been yelled at and doesn’t feel as safe as she used to. She wants the city to do more to support downtown businesses–something Wheeler has said he’s committed to doing.
“We are beginning those remediations again. We’re going to significantly increase proactive litter and graffiti abatement, and we’re going to be working with the business community to help them reopen,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler’s update also gave a look at Portland’s growing homeless population and what services are now in place for those experiencing homelessness.
Wheeler directed the Joint Office of Homeless Services to add hundreds of new indoor shelter spaces throughout fall and winter, which provide food, showers, laundry and housing services. The city also placed 100 portable toilets around the community, with downtown being one of the first areas to see the new installments.
In terms of public safety, Wheeler acknowledged all residents, workers and visitors should feel safe downtown. The release from his office reiterated the mayor’s commitment to public safety initiatives and services, highlighting his 19-point police reform plan.
Mayor Wheeler is also the city’s police commissioner. The 19-point plan includes financial, policy and legislative actions, several of which have been completed.