IMAGE: Portland Bureau of Transportation
Despite being in the communications business, this week’s Rogue, the Internet service provider Clearwire Corp., simply does not get the message from the city.
As WW reported last month (see Murmurs, WW, Jan. 20, 2010), the Portland Bureau of Transportation took the highly unusual step recently of asking Portland police to cite Clearwire employees and seize their equipment as evidence if they are found conducting sales on public sidewalks.
That request came after the company, which has been rolling out its WiMax service for the past year in Portland, repeatedly ignored written warnings that it needed permits to erect sidewalk sales tents.
In addition to blocking walkways and being out of compliance with city code, the unpermitted sales tents run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act because they block the sidewalk, says Rich Eisenhauer, a program manager at the Transportation Bureau.
As long ago as last September, Clearwire sales manager Sean Romo warned his colleagues the city’s patience was at an end.
“This is the final reminder as we have sent numerous emails,” Romo wrote.
“Unless you have a permit, you are not allowed to set up a table, tent, and sell on city property,” he wrote. “If you are caught selling or are set up without a permit, you are subject to immediate arrest and will have your laptop and inventory seized by the police. DO NOT DO THIS ANYMORE.”
But Clearwire reps ignored that warning, resulting in a Jan. 14 bust downtown: Eisenhauer says Portland Police Sgt. Matt Engen cited a Clearwire salesperson and seized a laptop in that bust.
Eisenhauer says taking such a step with a sidewalk vendor is unprecedented.
“We’ve never gone to this level with anybody else,” Eisenhauer says.
As Eisenhauer repeatedly explained to Clearwire, sidewalks are for pedestrians, not unlicensed hawkers.
But even after the Jan. 14 incident, Clearwire still didn’t get the message.
On Jan. 27, Eisenhauer received notification of another Clearwire tent (pictured above) set up on the sidewalk in the 8300 block of North Lombard Street. Now, that’s Roguish.
Clearwire spokeswoman Debra Havins says the tent on Lombard belonged to an authorized dealer, not Clearwire. But she acknowledges the tent bore the company’s name and passersby would not know the difference.
“We are working with the city to get permits, and have advised our dealers to do the same,” Havins says.