Portland tables decision on Clean & Safe contract renewal

Civic Affairs

Contract expires September 30, vote expected next week

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council tabled a decision to renew a contract with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe after dozens of people told commissioners why they opposed the renewal.

“Since its inception, the city’s collaboration with Clean & Safe has played an important role in improving the vitality and livability of the downtown area,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said during the meeting.

But the question the Portland City Council must answer is whether to renew the Clean & Safe contract when the current 10-year deal expires September 30. Clean & Safe is looking for a 5-year deal worth $25 million.

The organization, which is operated by the Portland Business Alliance, provides security, sweeps sidewalks, removes graffiti and litter and pressure washes throughout the district, but does so through private contracts paid by the city.

Wheeler said their services are needed now more than ever.

Protesters gathered outside the World Trade Center in Portland against homeless sweeps and the group Clean & Safe, September 22, 2021 (KOIN)

Many disagree, citing alleged harassment by security guards and allegations the program misuses funds.

“We ask that you renew this contract for one year only so that you and your staff can take a closer look at just how that $6 million plus is spent every year,” said Ashley Henry, the executive director of Business for a Better Portland.

Bryan Taylor, who identified himself as a security guard, told the council, “213 city blocks of Portland are treated as a city-within-a-city where private police can punish and remove people who would not be punished and removed by an average Portland police officer.”

Jessie Burke, who owns the Society Hotel in Old Town, supports Clean & Safe. As a hotel owner, she said, she’s on the ground in downtown Portland all the time and interacts with their staff. She believes in what they do.

But she and others who spoke at the City Council meeting Thursday say the council should change who operates it.

Jessie Burke, the chair of the Old Town Community Association and the owner of the Society Hotel, September 1, 2021 (KOIN)

She said she has “witnessed first-hand not only the fiscal and operational albatross that this contractual relationship is to the success of Clean & Safe, I’ve also witnessed the bullying from PBA.”

Burke, who served on the Clean & Safe board of directors, said that needs to change.

“After observing first-hand the bullying, manipulation and exploitation by PBA leadership and PBA board members toward Clean & Safe staff & board members, I resigned,” she said.

The Portland City Council is expected to vote on the contract renewal next week.

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