How a “Sneaky” Move by Mayor Hales Motivated an Activist to Beat the City of Portland in Court

On Wednesday, Portland City Council will vote to challenge a federal court ruling striking down its exclusion policies. While I agree with the ruling, it’s worth noting how intense their meetings can get.

Here’s a video of activist Joe Walsh and a few of the other meeting regulars pushing back against a council decision, for a little background. Walsh has been tossed out of several City Council meetings for disrupting proceedings, but a federal court recently decided that The City violated his First Amendment rights when 30- and 60-day exclusions were added to punish him.

What didn’t come out in the Oregonian story were the details of why Walsh was excluded, and the fact that he isn’t the only activist that has been hit with exclusions. Walsh said he knows of three other activists excluded from City Hall— including one who was given a permanent ban after trying to film the removal of a man having a mental crisis during his City Council testimony.  Another activist wasn’t allowed into City Hall after a confrontation with City Hall security. Both incidents were filmed, and I’ve embedded the video later in this post.

Other activists have simply stopped coming to City Council because of how City Hall security treats testifiers, Walsh said. The federal judge was clear in his ruling: the City Council can’t prevent citizens from petitioning their government, and Walsh said he thinks The City needs to accept the ruling and stop trying to punish activists with exclusions. The City has the tools to throw out disruptive people, and that should be enough, he thinks.

Walsh received his last exclusion on July 8th, and he told the story on KBOO’s Voices from the Edge, hosted by Jo Ann Hardesty. The full interview is here (it begins at 5:45). Without legal support, the 73-year-old retired shipyard supervisor beat City Hall in court, and it’s a great story.

On the program, a KBOO listener called in to ask Walsh to tell the story (beginning at 30:05 in the interview) of how Mayor Hales’ “sneaky” (as the caller described it) procedural maneuver on July 8th set Walsh off. This led to his last removal and exclusion from City Hall— and sparked his lawsuit. It’s also a great story, one that begins with some bureaucratic minutiae.

Routine council agenda items are bundled in the consent agenda, items that are voted on all at once. But if someone wants to talk about one of the items, the City Charter allows them to do so. Walsh thought that a $100,000 transfer from the Bureau of Transportation to the Portland Police Bureau for police overtime needed discussion, and Mayor Charlie Hales had to pull it from the consent agenda and open it up to discussion.

It’s also important to know that Walsh has a medical issue requiring him to visit the bathroom regularly. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he requested in writing that the mayor and city council give him a reasonable accommodations for his disability (bathroom breaks). Walsh charges that Hales used the power of the gavel and Walsh’s medically-induced absence to get the overtime item through without discussion.

From the interview:

“What Charlie Hales does is he moves the item way after regular business which means that it takes two to three hours to get to it. So the people that wanna talk about it can’t spend that kinda time. So they leave. But unfortunately for Charlie, I’m retired so I can stay. But I have to go to the restroom… so I was out at the restroom, and he pulled it out of order and they voted on it. I mean my oxygen and all that stuff was still there. So they knew I was still there.

I walked back in and was told by a friend, “Joe, they voted on that thing, it’s gone.” So I yelled to Charlie I wanted to speak on that item, and he said no we already voted on it. I said you can’t do that. I pulled it, I wanna to talk about it. So we got into this big battle back and forth and finally they threw me out. And that’s when I got the 60-day excursion [sic]. And that’s when I said enough’s enough.”

Beyond KBOO’s coverage, only the Oregonian has been writing about this story. In a piece by Maxine Bernstein from when Walsh first filed his suit, the reasons were given about why Walsh had been ejected and excluded from City Council.

In the article, the story about how Hales moved up the item pulled from the consent agenda was simplified down to: “Walsh sought to testify about an agenda item that the council had already moved past.” I don’t know how Hales’ move was so stripped of context, but it’s another example of how every time I scratch the surface of a story in this town, weird details emerge.

I found that day’s agenda on the City’s website, and the consent agenda wasn’t voted on in the order it was listed. That supports Walsh’s point that the item he wanted to discuss was pushed later in the meeting. I also listened to a few hours of audio from that day’s City Council meeting, but wasn’t able to prove or disprove Walsh’s story from the on mic audio only. (In the ruling, however, the federal judge confirms Walsh’s story that he missed the vote, the possibility of malicious intent by Hales wasn’t addressed.)

The Muscle at City Hall

The video below was filmed on Nov. 25th. It shows a homeless rights activist being forcibly removed from the City Council meeting. The camera person , Kif Davis, and the activist were both arrested. It’s an ugly scene that I think could have been handled better by City security. PPB is being monitored by the US Department of Justice for its treatment of the mentally ill, and the first report on the agreement said PPB was only in “partial compliance” with reforms. The report says that PPB officers are trained in mental health intervention, but they are not being sent to all mental health calls. Is City Hall’s private security trained in mental health? Couldn’t they have just allowed the situation to de-escalate by waiting for the ambulance like the disturbed activist wanted?

 

Kif Davis, the camera person, was given a permanent ban from City Hall for this incident. It was his third exclusion, he said, but since the federal court’s ruling he has been allowed back into City Hall. He is still facing a criminal trespassing charge, he said. The activist in the video having the breakdown is still in jail, Davis said, and was also excluded from City Hall.

I don’t know the history of the camera person, but the following video seems like an egregious example of City Hall security overreach. The camera person was there for a public meeting, and when they didn’t immediately answer the security guard’s question they were under suspicion and pretty quickly thrown out.

 

If you’ve made it this far, here’s the last video you should watch. Davis confronts the security guards that threw him out of City Council chambers. Whatever your opinion of this issue, you gotta admit it’s fun to see these bruisers silenced by a guy with a camera. And if this is what’s captured, what else is happening that’s being missed? It seems there are more shenanigans happenings than just the exclusions. Based on the push back to this ruling, it seems the folks at City Hall have yet to learned their lesson.

I’ll give the last word to Michael Simon, the federal judge who ruled on Walsh’s case:

“A presiding officer may remove a disruptive individual from any particular meeting, and a sufficiently disruptive person may even be prosecuted for such conduct if public law permits. But no matter how many meetings of a city council a person disrupts, he or she does not forfeit or lose the future ability to exercise constitutional rights and may not be prospectively barred from attending future meetings. Our democratic republic is not so fragile, and our First Amendment is not so weak.”

Richmond Police Calls: 12/7 – 12/13

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In this week’s police calls, there were 2 Assault, a Theft, and a Prowler reported. There was an Injury Accident, a Priority Hit and Run, and  5 Traffic Stops this week, a lot more than most weeks. The 2 Shots Fired reports are also unusual.

Priority Assault (A): 28th & Powell,  12/7 @ 5:25 pm.

Theft (T): 41st & Powell, 12/11 @ 11:42 pm.

Property (P): Prowler @ 36th & Powell, 12/9 @ 8:59 pm.

Quality of Life (Q): Shots Fired: 41st & Clay, 12/11 @ 8:23 pm; 48th near Hawthorne, 12/11 @ 8:21 pm. The rest were unwanted person & suspicious vehicle or person calls.

Traffic (car): Priority Hit & Run: 41st & Woodward, 12/12 @ 12:48 pm; Non-injury Accident: 30th & Hawthorne, 12/9 @ 8:49 pm; 29th & Powell, 12/8 @ 5:26 pm; 31st & Powell, 12/12 @ 2:56 pm.

Proactive Policing (PP): Traffic Stop: 37th & Division, 12/9 @ 10:39 pm, 42nd & Powell, 12/13 @ 10:17 pm; Cesar Chavez & Stephens, 12/10 @ 7:30 pm; 40th & Hawthorne, 12/7 @ 11:34 pm; 42nd & Hawthorne, 12/9 @ 9:52 am. All the other calls were Area Check, Welfare Check, Citizen or Agency Assist.

Other (O): Missing Person Lost / Found @ 32nd & Market 12/8 @ 9:54 am; Warrant @ 26th and Powell. 12/10 @ 6:41 pm.

Multiple incidents:

28th & Powell: 3 unwanted persons.

Cesar Chavez & Powell: 3 Unwanted Persons; Priority Threat 12/8 @ 9:56:14 am; Priority Assault, 12/11 @ 7:35 pm.

Madison & 38: 2 Theft Subject in Custody; Community Policing; Injury Accident, 12/13 @ 6:23 pm

41st & Caruthers: Suspicious Vehicle or Circumstance & Warrant.

50th & Powell: Suspicious Vehicle or Person & Hazardous Conditions.

50th & Ivon: Unwanted Person & Priority Threat.

RNA December Board Meeting

Taking stock of what was accomplished in 2015 was the only agenda item for the Dec. 7th meeting of the Richmond Neighborhood Association. Nine board members were present, as were six others.

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The deadline to submit comments on Portland’s Comprehensive Plan is Jan. 7th. Comments will be submitted by the RNA board, and a separate set of comments will be submitted by the Division Design Initiative. Follow the link to submit testimony, and learn more about the plan.

One vote was taken at the meeting. All nine board members present voted to apply to SE Uplift for just over $1,500 in communication funds to publish the Richmond News. The News costs $950 per issue to print, and a board member said the money from SE Uplift will cover about two of the four annual issues.

Reports were given from: Land Use Committee, DDI, The Richmond News, fund raising activities, and other activities of the RNA. There was also a presentation on neighborhood demographics, attendance at RNA meetings and an update on the RNA website. The SE Uplift representative was not able to make the December meeting.

Heather Flint Chatto, DDI coordinator and RNA board member, said that the DDI would be applying again for a SE Uplift small grant. DDI won a grant last year for design guidelines, and is considering a design tool kit for this year’s proposal.

RNA board chair Cyd Manro said the best way to win the grant is to explain how the project will better the neighborhood, involved multiple organization, and leverage funds from other sources.

Flint Chatto gave a short presentation on DDI’s 2015 accomplishments. The inter-neighborhood design group has raised $8,900, hosted 18 meetings with 17 organizations, distributed ten art installation suggestion boxes at local businesses, and crafted a list of ten design policy suggestions.

After two meetings, the Elections Committee is suggesting that board candidates give notice that they are running. There has been no decision on whether candidates will have to issue a statement on their positions, said board member Doug Klotz. There was no one to present from the ethics committee.

Klotz, chair person of the Land Use Committee, said he expects developers to submit more plans before Portland’s new comprehensive plan is enacted in mid-2017. It’s isn’t necessarily stricter, he said, but they are familiar with the current plan’s requirements. After the new comprehensive plan is enacted, he said, notifications will be required for all buildings. Now notification is only required along Division.

I reported on The Richmond News, as the new editor. I thanked everyone who helped me with the newsletter and said a neighborhood news survey would be distributed soon. Board member Jonathan King said it was distasteful to have Allen Field write the story about circumstance surrounding the board election when he was so closely involved.

The board also plans to express support for a grant for the 70s bikeway and a recreational center on the open space west of what used to be Washington High School. A pilot project on giving more notice for demolitions is proposed for the Richmond neighborhood.

An update on a Good Neighbor Agreement between Salt & Straw (3345 Division) and neighbors showed progress. There has been a reduction in noise, illegal parking, and litter.

There is a neighborhood visioning meeting planned for Jan. 11th, 7 pm at Waverly Heights Congregational (3300 SE Woodward). A board retreat will be held the day before.

Suggestions from the neighbors in attendance included: having a neighborhood calendar of events and plan to increase voting in future board elections.

 

Richmond Police Calls: 11/30 – 12/6

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priority burglary: 38th & Clinton,  12/5 @ 5:37:12 pm

priority theft: 37th & Madison, 12/1 @ 6:12:11 pm; 46th & Hawthorne, 12/2 @ 4:42:39 pm; 50th & Division @ 2:35 pm

priority assault: 33rd & Powell, 12/1 @ 3:51:25 pm

traffic calls: priority hit and run: 28th & Powell, 12/03 @ 11:13:22 am; 30th & Hawthorne, 11/30 @ 6:31:01 pm. injury accident: 35th & Powell 12 /2 @ 8:25:06 pm. non-injury accident: 12/5 @ 2:17:46 pm; Hawthorne & Cesar Chavez (2 calls) , 12/2 @ 5:16:39 pm

quality of life (Q): There were shots fired reported near 31st & Caruthers; the rest were unwanted persons reports.

proactive policing (PP): traffic stop: 5oth & Caruthers, 12/5 @ 11:58:40 pm; Powell & Cesar Chavez, 12/3 @ 10:17:50 pm; Clinton & Cesar Chavez, 12/5 @ 10:02:50 am; civil standby: 26th & Powell 04 Dec 2015 @ 4:45:17 pm; the rest were welfare checks and agency assist calls.

multiple incidents: 26th & Powell: welfare check & area check; 24th & Hawthorne: fire related & traffic stop: 32nd & Powell: 2 unknown injury accident & injury accident (same incident), 12/3 @ 1:05 pm; 37th & Hawthorne, 2 community policing; 38th & Hawthorne, 2 unwanted person; Powell & Cesar Chavez, citizen or agency assist & cold welfare check.

THIS WEEKEND!

FRIDAY 

Jim Wallace was the winner of the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Award for Best Blues Harmonica in 2008 and 2010, and he’s at Blue Diamond w/ Suburban Slim. 2016 NE Sandy * 9 pm * free 

How about a 90s dance party with Snap!?  w/ Dr. Adams, Colin Jones, Freaky Outty.  Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison * 9 pm * $5 

SATURDAY 

So… you like to rock out? Do any of the dark lords of the lower realms seem allegiance-worthy? Gatheists, Acid Tongue, Ice Queen Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water Ave * 9 pm * ??

SUNDAY

Here we go! The Timbers are one win away from playing for the MLS title:

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Richmond Police calls: 11/17 – 11/23

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A robbery was reported Monday (10/23), on 41st  just north of Hawthorne. Nov. 2015 @ 4:29:38 pm.

A priority assault was reported 11/23 @ 5:22:38 pm on Powell near 50th

PP: priority welfare check at Cesar Chavez & Powell 11/23 @ 6:22:26 pm; area check 38th a block north of Powell, 11/23 @ 5:54:59 pm.

O: disorder, 40th north of Francis 23 Nov 2015 @ 12:08:37 pm; unwanted person @ 33rd & Powell, 11/23 @ 5:44:25 pm

Multiple incident:

44th & Powell: welfare check 11/23 @ 2:51:55 pm, unwanted persons 11/23 @ 3:16:35 pm, and shots fired  11/23 @ 5:44:49 pm.

 

THIS WEEKEND!

FRIDAY

A pretty sweet acoustic R&B / soul called Harper is playing at Eastburn. 1800 E Burnside * 10 pm * free 

Elephant Stone, Hollow Sidewalks  @ Bunk Bar 1028 SE Water * doors @ 9 pm * $10 

SATURDAY

Tim Meadows is at Helium Comedy Club. I gotta say his drug scenes in Walk Hard were some funniest things I’ve seen him done. 1510 SE 9th * Fri, Sat: 7:30 pm, 10 pm * $23 GA, $31 reserved 

Amy Bleau (cabaret-influenced folk-pop), Ron Green (soul pop) are at Jade Lounge2342 SE Ankeny St. * 8 – 10 pm * free