PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At the beginning of December, the Rose City Downtown Collective published a rather scathing open letter to the city — but we are now hearing a much more positive tone from these businesses.
In the last three months since the leaders of the Rose City Downtown Collective started advocating for help and change, they say they’ve seen an improvement in the cleanliness downtown. The collective leaders say the trash pick-up is largely happening at the volunteer level — and it’s making a huge difference.
One of the founders of the collective told KOIN 6 engagement from new city leaders is driving this momentum, as well.
“We just feel so heartened because of the energy coming out of city hall,” Rose City Downtown Collective Co-founder Vanessa Sturgeon said. “Now they’re really working on all of the same types of goals where we’re all rowing in the same direction at this point. So, it feels really rewarding to have started this work back in December and seeing it pay off.”
Mayor Wheeler’s office said they like what the Rose City Downtown Collective is doing.
“Their plan tracks well with the Mayor’s priorities and the work that is already underway. It is great that they are seeing an on-the-ground difference, and feeling some momentum towards getting on top of our challenges. There is obviously much more to do,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
Moving forward, the latest action plan from the Rose City Downtown Collective is calling on elected officials to swiftly address the following five main areas:
- Compassionate and effective care for Portland’s streets and the houseless population
- A pathway for peaceful protest
- Financial support to specifically help businesses reopen, with city and county leaders proactively supporting business downtown
- Make downtown a safe and secure place for businesses, shoppers, diners and residents
- Arrest and prosecution for criminal behavior including the destruction of property
Commissioner Mingus Mapps says these demands are reasonable and hopes the city can move forward towards implementing them.
“I really appreciate the Rose City Collective’s thoughtful call to action and the delineation of issues as they related to State, City and County jurisdictions. Many of the items they outlined are currently in process such as trash collection and the expansion of safe sleeping options,” he said. “Other suggestions I really like and advocate for, such as the banning of impact munitions and prosecution for criminal activity including the destruction of property. I think their demands are completely reasonable and hope we can move towards making them a reality.
Mapps also said he is an advocate of community policing — where police are out walking the streets, engaging with community members.
Sturgeon says garnering this support from city officials is crucial as rowdy crowds have returned to the downtown area.
“The community is really clear on the fact that these are no longer protests. They are just riots. There is no real goal to them and it’s just criminal destruction,” she said. “At this point, people are heartened that the police have been able to find an effective tool to deal with criminal behavior — and now it’ll just be up to the district attorney’s office to hold people accountable through prosecution.”
We’re told that many businesses within the collective have taken to District Attorney Mike Schmidt, stressing the need to hold people accountable for the destruction — especially as we see that resurgence of vandals congregating overnight once again.
The DA’s Office reached out to KOIN 6, saying they are “continuing to prosecute criminal cases that involve property destruction and physical violence when those cases are referred to our office by law enforcement.”
Between May 28 and February 26, the DA’s office received 294 civil unrest/demonstration-related cases that fall into one of four categories: arson/burning, person crimes, property crimes, and weapons crimes. That number makes up 28% of all the cases resulting from demonstration-related arrests.
Since banding together — the Rose City Downtown Collective has made tangible impacts. At a grassroots level, they’ve raised nearly $25,000 through community donations to help nearly two dozen businesses replace broken windows.
More recently, they’ve started a GoFundMe fundraiser for graffiti removal.
Overall, businesses downtown say they are seeing signs of improvement — and feeling cautiously optimistic about turning downtown back around.