3/25/2023 News Roundup


<<The announcement last month that Portland had earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 municipality equity index raised a few eyebrows.

For one thing, the index claims the city’s police force has something it doesn’t: an LGBTQ+ advisory council.

It shuttered in January 2022. The Human Rights Campaign gave the city full credit for having an “LGBTQ+ Police Liaison or Task Force” anyway.

A spokeswoman for the bureau confirmed that there is no assigned liaison, and told WW that the advisory council, most recently called the Alliance for Safer Communities, was “on hiatus” due to a lack of membership.>>

<<In 1981, then-Deputy Chief Tom Potter was appointed as the bureau’s first liaison with the gay community. He received death threats after he marched in Portland’s Pride Parade, going on to become chief and later mayor of Portland.

In 1995, the city established a “Sexual Minorities Round Table” to forge relationships between the cops and the LGBTQ+ community. It was later renamed the Alliance for Safer Communities. But the Alliance has struggled to maintain membership in recent years amid nationwide protests against police abuses.

In 2021, Pride Northwest banned uniformed officers from marching in the city’s Pride Parade, citing police violence against BIPOC Portlanders.

The group noted that it was “concerned about the efficacy of the Alliance,” in its announcement.

When the Alliance for Safer Communities’ chair, Avi Klepper, stepped down following his two-year term at the end of 2021, no one volunteered to take his place. As Klepper put it in an email to WW, the Alliance had “officially disbanded.”

Debra Porta, executive director of Pride Northwest, was one of the people who Klepper approached to take on the job. She turned it down.

The committee was made up of volunteers, and it simply wasn’t the best use of their time, Porta says. Plus, its work didn’t seem to be translating to progress on the streets.

“Yes, there was policy work happening,” she explains. “But our people were still being harmed.”>>



<<Repealing Measure 110, an option Mayor Ted Wheeler suggested at a town hall on Saturday, would cost Multnomah County $58 million in drug treatment funds in the two years ending in December, says Tera Hurst, executive director of the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, an organization that advocates for implementation of the measure.

Taken together, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties would lose $91 million, Hurst says.

Like many critics, Wheeler is scapegoating Measure 110 for Portland’s problems, Hurst alleges. The measure made Oregon the first state to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of some hard drugs.

It uses cannabis tax revenue and savings from criminal enforcement to fund new addiction and recovery programs.

Detractors say the measure has made Oregon a haven for people who want to take drugs without the legal risks. Hurst says they’re wrong because other cities without 110-style laws are experiencing drug epidemics, too.

“If criminalization worked, lots of cities around the country wouldn’t be grappling with the same thing Portland is,” Hurst says. “Politicians are using Measure 110 as scapegoat and punching bag.”

Wheeler criticized Measure 110 at a town hall meeting in Montavilla on Saturday. He was introduced by Angela Todd, an interior designer who runs the controversial Instagram site PDX Real, where she catalogs the city’s woes, including tent fires, graffiti and people struggling with addiction and mental illness.

On Twitter, PDX Real has been a ruthless and personal critic of Hurst, who is in long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction, accusing her of lying about Measure 110′s contents.

“Another person runs our Twitter,” Todd said in her own defense in an email. “I only run Instagram and Facebook feeds.”

Wheeler made some of his harshest comments yet about Measure 110 at the Montavilla meeting.

“What was sold to the voting public was, ‘Yes, we will decriminalize some personal amounts of drugs,’” Wheeler said at the meeting. “But the main event was supposed to be the establishment of substance use disorder treatment statewide, including a lot of it right here in the metro area. And here we are two years later, and we’ve seen the decriminalization of hard drugs, but we’re not seeing the treatment.”

“I’m not going to lie to you. I’m pissed about that,” Wheeler continued.

“It needs to happen and it needs to happen urgently. And if it doesn’t happen, then we need to rethink the basic tenets of that ballot measure. If it’s not working, then let’s just admit it, and let’s move on to something that does.”

Funds from Measure 110 were delayed by bureaucratic snafus. As WW has written, decriminalization preceded the disbursal of treatment dollars by more than two years. That gap gave drug users carte blanche to consume heroin or methamphetamine but offered them no new resources for treatment.

Wheeler was playing to a sympathetic crowd at the event, Hurst says.

“He’s not listening to the people who are working on the front lines,” she says. “He’s placating the loudest voices, and we can’t be the loudest voices because we’re busy saving lives.”

Hurst pointed to data from the Oregon Health Authority showing that Measure 110-funded resource providers served more than 60,000 people from July 1, 2021—when the first components of the program started—to September 2022. So far, 233 organizations have received $265 million in Measure 110 funds, Hurst says.

Among them, Hurst says, are the Miracles Club, where Measure 110 is funding 18 new transitional housing beds, including the first and only transitional house for Black women in recovery and an LGBTW+ recovery house. Bridges to Change got $13 million for behavioral health, peer support, mentoring and housing. They plan to use the money to fund 202 new beds—109 of them in Multnomah County—and to hire 67 new employees.

“These are the people we’re counting on to fix this crisis,” Hurst says. “We should be throwing them parades.”>>



<<For five years, a group of Gresham business owners has chipped in to take care of Ronald “Ronny” Amato, a friend and fixture of the neighborhood.

The 59-year-old is homeless and sometimes yells at the sky or talks to himself, but is polite and non-confrontational, said Don Nguyen, the owner of Cheap Charlie’s Beer and Wine Superstore in historic downtown Gresham.

Nguyen hasn’t seen Amato since March 9, when Gresham police officers repeatedly fired their Tasers at him inside Cheap Charlie’s after a city homeless outreach worker accused Amato of assaulting him.>>

<<Two witnesses to the interaction between Amato and the city employee said they never saw Amato touch the worker. They said they believe the worker – who is tasked with connecting homeless people with resources and “protecting Gresham’s parks, trails and open spaces,” according to the city’s website – got angry because Amato refused to leave a stairwell at the back of Cheap Charlie’s where he frequently slept.

After being repeatedly hit with wires from the stun guns, Amato was taken to a hospital instead of jail and cited by police on suspicion of fourth-degree assault, resisting arrest and harassment. He was released from the hospital later that day and walked back to Cheap Charlie’s to collect his belongings, Nguyen said.

Nguyen and other business owners haven’t seen him since.>>

<<Surveillance camera footage from the entrance to Cheap Charlie’s appears to show at least two of the police officers shooting their Tasers at Amato as he was sitting on the floor and refusing to stand up or let go of his bag of belongings.

One officer can be heard on the video saying, “You’re going to get (expletive) Tased” to Amato, who topples over a shopping cart and raises his blue bag over his body when he sees the Taser.

When more officers arrived, one can be heard saying, “Get him again. Light him up.”

Within the 5-minute interaction, the officers Tased Amato at least five times, according to the footage. Before paramedics arrived, at least two officers appear to be kneeling on Amato while another stepped on his ankle.

Amato is heard yelling throughout the encounter and moaning in apparent pain as he is loaded onto a gurney by paramedics.

Nguyen said the police treatment of Amato infuriated him and prompted him to post his camera footage on Facebook.>>