2/2/23 News Update


<< Despite frequent negative media coverage, Portland is not even close to one of the most dangerous cities in the nation, according to FBI data.

An article published Tuesday in the prominent business magazine Forbes lists the most dangerous and the safest cities in the United States, based on a new study that examines crime data collected by the FBI.

Even though statistics indicate that violent crime rates decreased in places all around the United States last year, many Americans continue to have increased concerns about crime – spurred by an increase in mass shootings since the new year.

The FBI’s 2021 crime statistics, which include violent crimes like murder, rape, and severe assault as well as property crimes like home burglaries and car theft, were examined by MoneyGeek to create this year’s ranking. The business examined 263 cities with a population of more than 100,000.

MoneyGeek’s research shows the country’s most dangerous cities are largely located in the eastern and southeastern part of the country with St. Louis, Missouri taking the top spot on the list, followed by two cities in Alabama: Mobile and Birmingham. The results, perhaps surprising to some, don’t show any large cities frequently held up as dangerous, like Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, or Portland.>>



<<Two Portland police officers were hospitalized Wednesday morning after a suspect “violently” attacked them, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

The suspect, identified by police as Lonnie Hart, faces multiple charges, including one count of fourth-degree assault, two counts of assaulting a public safety officer and one count of aggravated harassment.

Police say that officers responded to an apartment building in the 900 Block of Southwest 21st Avenue just before 9:30 a.m. after residents reported Hart was checking door handles and threatening to sexually assault people.

When officers entered the building, Hart allegedly attacked two of them before he was arrested and taken into custody. Both officers were taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, PPB says.

Hart was also taken to a local hospital for evaluation and will be booked upon his release, authorities say.>>



<<Surveillance technology can be an important public safety tool, and currently, a group of people are pushing the City of Portland to be more transparent with how that technology is used.

Portland City Council passed this binding resolution that would force the city to publicly document the surveillance tools it uses and have every city bureau create a statement on the impact of those technologies.

For example, the public doesn’t know exactly how many cameras there are in the city or what their stated purpose is. People can report cameras they see to different sites, but the city isn’t required to release that data right now.

The decision from the council comes as the result of a push from dozens of local and national citizen groups — some of them had pushed for the successful ban of facial recognition technology in the city.

This resolution also requires the city to put forward an ordinance that would require a more democratic process requiring input from communities, where surveillance technology, such as gunshot detection, could be installed.

“We should have the right to know who the bureaus are sharing data with. We should have the right to know what Parking Kitty does with my dang phone number. Most importantly, we should have the right to know what is happening so we can have an informed conversation with lawmakers about surveillance and we can’t do that right now,” said Shawn Patrick, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

Lia Holland, with Fight for the Future, said she is concerned about more emerging technologies cities like Portland can use, such as automatic license plate recognition or gunshot detection technology.

Critics also contend the lack of transparency raises privacy concerns for people seeking abortions or gender-affirming care in Portland.

“We need to be thinking more about all the ways in which out-of-state law enforcement or individual vigilantes like from states like Texas could be using the data that our city is collecting in order to punish and prosecute people who are just looking to get health care,” she said.

This resolution also requires the city to disclose how data is stored and, if it’s shared with any other organization, how and why that data is shared.>>



<<Through song and prayer, the Portland NAACP, Chief Chuck Lovell and other Black Community leaders gathered at the Oregon Convention Center Tuesday to mourn 29-year-old Tyre Nichols who was killed in Memphis earlier this month.>>

<<They also stood together to condemn the actions of those former Memphis police officers accused of killing Nichols, saying violence in policing needs to end and Portland and the rest of the country needs police reform now.

“The way the current structure is, we’ll be here again. How long until the next one? How long before brother Tyre is forgotten, and the next name is on the billboard? The next name is being prayed for. Prayer without substance, I’m not a religious person, is a wish,” Metro Councilor Ashton Simpson said.

Portland’s NAACP President, James Posey, said there’s still a lot of work to do, but it starts with tangible actions.

“We got to get into these institutions we have to hold these politicians accountable; we have to hold ourselves accountable. We have to clean up our community, we have to build on what we already have. We’re not out here just waving signs and having an event for the sake of having an event,” Posey said.

Lovell said the bureau is still negotiating with the union to get body cameras for officers and said the bureau has already instituted something called ‘ABLE’ training for sworn officers.

“We instituted the ABLE program – which is active bystandership for law enforcement that really talks about and teaches officers how to intervene when they see things going wrong and what the right steps are.

For us, we want people to know that’s not what we’re about here in Portland,” Lovell said.>>



<<It was not until after the 14th warning that the city of Portland finally towed the Rhône Ranger, a 33-foot white sailboat with blue trim, from a city dock along the Willamette River.

The boat, co-owned by Travis Nagels, had been docked there for about a year, along with six or seven other inhabited boats moored near a former floating restaurant that once sold overpriced clam chowder.

Nagels, 34, had received 13 notices telling him to move his boat. They’d so far been toothless, so Nagels ignored the 14th one, which arrived in September and warned that he had 10 days to move it or else the city would seize and tow it.

Portland Parks & Recreation ordered the tow of the sailboat nine business days later. That was one day too early, according to state law.

In December, the city hearings officer fined the parks bureau $10,000 for its misstep—and gave the check to nomadic mariner Nagels. The city could not give him his boat back: It had already been dismantled.

After the incident, the city stopped towing boats from the two docks altogether and is now trying to persuade the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to resume the job—which it is hesitant to do after the city took more than a year to pay for previous work.

What happened that October morning at Riverplace Marina was a farce featuring armed cops, frightened parks rangers, and the arrest of Nagels on a decade-old cannabis charge. It was also the result of a city that had neglected to enforce its own rules for so long that nobody took the rules seriously. In short, it was business as usual for Portland’s homelessness crisis, but this time on the water.

For more than five years, high-end renters near Riverplace Marina complained to the city of a smattering of boats whose mysterious owners illegally moored them at the two municipal docks. Neighbors called them “pirate hobos.”>>

<<Portland Parks & Recreation owns the Riverplace docks. Prior to 2020, the parks bureau contracted with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to tow derelict boats. The city would reimburse the county for tows and other dock maintenance such as issuing warnings.

In December 2019, the contract ended. The city owed the sheriff’s office $78,000 in outstanding bills racked up in 2019.>>

<<For more than two years after that, the parks bureau made no tows, though it kept issuing dozens of yellow slips warning boat owners to leave the dock.>>

<<Between April and October of last year, the bureau towed seven boats at Riverplace docks, using a private towing company, A-1 Marina. (The owner of A-1 Marina, 80-year-old Daniel Gulbrandson, wouldn’t answer WW’s questions about that day. The company hasn’t been registered with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office since 2018.)

A note written by a parks official Aug. 2, 2022, said that “Portland Fire [& Rescue] had serious fire concerns related to the vacant floating structure and use of the docks by long-term moorage.”>>

<<On Oct. 12, parks rangers initiated the tow of the Rhône Ranger. They recruited the help of Portland police, according to a parks spokesman, when Nagels wouldn’t get off his boat.

Nagels says cops led him off the boat at gunpoint; the Portland Police Bureau denies this, though it says officers brought a shotgun. Parks rangers feared Nagels might be another boat-dweller who had threatened to kill restaurant maintenance workers in August and who had a laundry list of felony convictions.

Police booked Nagels into jail when they found he had an outstanding 10-year-old warrant from West Virginia for marijuana possession. The DA’s office dismissed the case two days later, but by that time, the boat was long gone, along with all of Nagels’ possessions. A-1 Marina billed the city $4,470 for the tow, documents show.>>

<<Nagels and Eng filed an appeal with the city’s Hearings Office later that month, arguing the tow was unlawful.

<<During that proceeding, hearings officer William Guzman determined that parks rangers had seized the boat on the 10th calendar day, not the 10th business day, after the warning was issued, as required by state law. Guzman ordered the city to give Nagels’ boat back. Parks bureau employees agreed, but later told Guzman the boat had already been destroyed by A-1 Marina. They described its condition in grave terms: “dismantled beyond what is going to be seaworthy.” (The City Ombudsman Office stepped in to help Nagels with the appeal.)

Guzman sanctioned the parks bureau $10,000, the maximum allowed, for withholding the boat’s condition at the hearing. He ordered the bureau to give Nagels the check.

A parks manager wrote to Guzman that the city advised Nagels to file a claim with the Risk Management Office “so that the city may reimburse the appellants for the value of the vessel since it cannot be returned.”

That means the city will likely have to pay even more for the dismantled boat.

In an appeal filed by the City Attorney’s Office, senior deputy city attorney Robert Yamachika looked beyond Nagels’ case to the prospect of future towing. He wrote that the city had stopped paying A-1 Marina for tows and the county was expected to resume boat seizure duties at the city’s docks.

But the sheriff’s office had been reluctant to do so, given the outstanding tab the city still hadn’t paid.

The city finally paid the county in full only last December. Parks spokesman Mark Ross tells WW that the bureau and the county “began discussions to enter into a new [agreement] to reestablish the partnership based on new resources.”>>



<<Revered former Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk died Monday. He was 80. His passing was widely mourned. Schrunk won the respect of judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers during his 32-year tenure as Portland’s top prosecutor. All camps sang his praises when his death was announced Jan. 30 (family members told The Oregonian Schrunk died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease). County leaders declared a day in his honor following his retirement in 2012. “Mike has always been known for doing the right thing,” then-Chief Criminal Judge Julie Frantz of the Multnomah County Circuit Court said at the time. Schrunk’s influence on Portland’s criminal justice system has extended long after his reign as DA. His handpicked successor, Rod Underhill, served until 2020. Underhill’s successor, Mike Schmidt, credits Schrunk with giving him his “first chance” to practice criminal law, and has adopted some aspects of his former boss’s mentality. Schrunk opposed the death penalty, started one of the first drug offense diversion courts in the country, and avoided partisanship. “Political winds change,” Schrunk told an interviewer in 2007. “What we need is to get the data, and we need to ask the questions of the bright young men and women that can analyze this data.”>>


[KW NOTE: I can only read this obit as an exercise in severe sarcasm. It is well documented that Schrunk spent his entire career covering up abuse and corruption.]


<<Administrative law judge and former Portland City Council candidate Vadim Mozyrsky tells WW he is mulling a run for Multnomah County district attorney in 2024.

Mozyrsky came in third place in the 2022 May primary election for City Council Position 2, failing to make the general election with now-City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez and former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

His new aspiration for office might strike some as ambitious, seeing as Mozyrsky has no experience in criminal law, nor is he currently a member of the Oregon State Bar. (Oregon law requires that a candidate for district attorney must be admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Oregon.)>>

<<“I think it’s a very tricky problem to solve. It’s not just the police, not just the district attorney’s office, not just the sheriffs, not just the city, not just the county,” Mozyrsky tells WW. “But I do hear people saying that they don’t feel safe and they don’t feel their neighbors are safe.”>>

<<Mozyrsky cozied up to veteran City Hall politicos during and after his failed bid for a City Council seat. After he lost, he went on to campaign against the charter reform measure that appeared on the November ballot (it passed handily). He formed a political action committee with Kevin Looper of People for Portland to back Gonzalez, who ran to Hardesty’s right. >>



<<It was a powerful testament to an uncomfortable truth about America’s prisons: Increasingly, they contain elderly people, who are serving life or many decades for crimes that were adjudicated in the wake of the United States’s turn towards harsh sentencing schemes like mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws. Many of these people will die inside-–despite the fact that nearly every state possesses some form of compassionate release program that could allow terminally ill prisoners to spend their final days at home.

Oregon has a higher percentage of aging prisoners than most states. >>

<<Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national organization that supports criminal justice reforms, has been researching the issue for almost two decades, discovering that in almost every case, compassionate release is more of an idea than a reality. Last year, the organization released a report grading each state’s compassionate release system.

Amidst generally poor results, Oregon failed in every category that FAMM used to measure systems—scoring higher than only five states, including two that had no compassionate release programs at all at the time.>>

<<According to data FAMM obtained from the state’s department of corrections, only seven out of 47 applicants won compassionate release in Oregon in 2019, while six people who had applied died before their cases could be processed. In 2020, no one who applied got out via compassionate release.

“We would say that those low numbers don’t reflect how many people are discouraged from even trying to apply by the complexity of the system, how opaque it is, the lack of a clear path through it or timeline,” said Alice Lundell, OJRC’s director of communications. “It’s very difficult to quantify how many people are just not even attempting this because it is beyond them, particularly in a very poor state of health to even begin.”

Applicants are first required to be terminally ill or elderly and medically incapacitated to qualify, though no definitions for these terms are supplied. These extremely sick or dying people must initiate the compassionate release process themselves and then complete a lengthy and complicated petition on their own that involves a medical report documenting their condition, a detailed post-release plan including treatment and housing, and a personal recommendation from the prison superintendent.

In the unlikely event they clear each of those hurdles, their petition arrives at the state’s board of parole, which in any given term, “may or may not have a medical professional on the board—usually they don’t,” says Hedquist. “They’re only looking at the crime, saying, ‘Well, hey, this dude’s got a 40 year sentence for A, B and C. We’re not going to let him out.’”

Aliza Kaplan, who runs the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at the Lewis & Clark Law School, says the prison superintendent recommendation requirement in particular makes it extraordinarily difficult to advance past that point in the process. “We are lawyers who have a lot of access and know people—and we couldn’t get anyone to write us back or talk to us about our cases,” she told Bolts.

Kaplan’s clinic has stopped even trying to use compassionate release as a mechanism to get people out of prison. >>



WW ran a scare story:


The Merc concisely took it to pieces:

<<When a news story leads with some cringe Commissioner Rene Gonzalez platitude, you know where that story is headed. For instance, check out this YIMBYs Think Twice piece about “a dangerous and out-of-control homeless encampment” located in an abandoned bar across from a homeless shelter. The idea is that these bleeding heart libs of Arbor Lodge are totally cucked for allowing an abandoned Rite Aid to operate as a shelter in their neighborhood. Because a different abandoned building, a shuttered bar across the street, became worse. Okay, but then it links to a piece from the same issue, by the same reporter, which explains the building has been abandoned since 2019. Furthermore, the Arbor Lodge homeless shelter has been closed for renovations since October 2022—which might explain why people are living in the old bar?! >>