Murmurs: City Council Tussles Over Camping Ban

In other news: Access to Oswego Lake more likely.

PUBLIC WATERS: Oswego Lake. (M.O. Stevens)

CITY COUNCIL TUSSLES OVER CAMPING BAN: As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to loosen the legal constraints that govern how harshly cities can penalize people for sleeping outside, the Portland City Council is about to decide who will make those decisions. On April 17, City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez proposed a strict camping ban that would punish unsanctioned camping with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, should state and federal law allow it. He has twice watered down that proposal so that the penalties match those in an earlier proposal by Mayor Ted Wheeler. Now, the primary difference between the Gonzalez and Wheeler proposals is that Gonzalez’s plan puts the rulemaking authority with the next mayor and their chosen city administrator. (Gonzalez is running for mayor.) Wheeler criticized Gonzalez’s plan at a Tuesday morning press conference, saying it would remove key decisions from public discussion. “I feel very, very strongly that the City Council needs to be front and center, stand in the light of day, in front of God and country, and say what rules we’re going to enforce.” A majority of Supreme Court justices this week appeared to lean toward reversing Martin v. Boise, the case law that requires cities to offer sufficient shelter before banning camping in public spaces. If it does so, Oregon law would still prohibit camping bans should they be deemed unreasonable. The Legislature could repeal that next year, however.

ACCESS TO OSWEGO LAKE MORE LIKELY: The battle for public access to tony Oswego Lake, which is off-limits to nearly all Oregonians, reached another milestone last week. After the second phase of a trial over the question of whether non-Lake Oswego residents may use the lake for recreation, a Clackamas County jury told Judge Kathie F. Steele that the general public should be allowed to access the waters from Millennium Plaza Park at the lake’s eastern end. That’s not the final word on the case that has crawled through Oregon courts since Mark Kramer and Todd Prager first sued for access in 2012 (“Locking Up Oswego Lake,” WW, April 11, 2012). Kramer wanted to put his kayak in the water and Prager wished to swim in the lake. The case went up to the Oregon Supreme Court, which remanded it to Clackamas County Circuit Court to answer two questions: Are the lake’s waters public (a judge ruled in 2023 that they are) and, if so, what should the remedy be? The jury considered a series of questions last week after two weeks of trial. Judge Steele will now write a final order in the coming months. That order is likely to follow the jury’s guidance—although it doesn’t have to. Prager cheered the result. “The jury’s decision protects the fundamental rights of who we are as Oregonians,” he says. “The city of Lake Oswego is at a crossroads. Do they want to continue spending taxpayer dollars so that a private corporation can monopolize access to a public resource, or are they willing to work with Oregonians to realize their rights to a state-owned lake?”

MORE OHIO RECRUITMENT FOR OHSU: Oregon Health & Science University went back to Ohio for employment help this week. OHSU’s human resources department, helmed by former Ohio hospital executive Qiana Williams, tapped Christie Goetz of the Human Capital Institute to lead a two-day retreat April 22 and 23. Goetz is based in Cincinnati. Williams has a predilection for professionals from Ohio. As reported by WW, seven of the 10 top people in her department come from OhioHealth, where she worked for eight years. Six work remotely from Ohio, prompting some university staff to quip that OHSU stands for Ohio Health & Science University. This is the second time OHSU HR has used HCI, as it’s known, according to a person who’s attended the training sessions. OHSU spokeswoman Sara Hottman says Atlanta-based HCI does work nationwide. “HCI, not the clients, assigns their trainers, who are based across the country,” Hottman said in an email. “This retreat will include five trainers.” In other Ohio news, Williams promoted Ernest Perry, one of the Buckeye telecommuters, to head of talent acquisition. Williams also named Perry permanent vice president of equity, opportunity and experience. After a national search, “Ernest has emerged as the most qualified candidate after serving in the role on an interim basis,” Williams said in an email April 12. His promotion is part of a “transformation strategy” in “talent acquisition,” Williams wrote. “It’s exciting work and I know we have an amazing team in place to excel.”

SHERIFF CALLS IN FEDS AGAIN TO HELP FIX COUNTY’S DYSFUNCTIONAL JAILS: Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell has asked the National Institute of Corrections to help stem the smuggling of drugs into Multnomah County’s jails, where two inmates overdosed and died last year. “NIC was able to identify two technical resource providers, and in the coming weeks, we will be meeting with them and discussing a plan moving forward,” O’Donnell said during an April 23 briefing of county commissioners. She also laid out her efforts to address a laundry list of recommendations NIC gave the county in January. That scathing report called on the county to fix the relationship between the two siloed government offices that staff the jail—the sheriff’s office and the county health department—and recommended O’Donnell name a new independent “CEO” of jail health. It’s not clear when, or if, that will happen. In a presentation at that same board briefing, the embattled director of Corrections Health, Myque Obiero, showed a slide saying the county was “not moving forward” with plans to hire an independent contractor to oversee health care at the jails. “We continue to work on every other recommendation with the sheriff’s office,” he said. Still, county officials plan to shift $200,000 from contingency funds to the sheriff’s office to address the silos, as reported April 22.

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