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Portland mayor promises action on Central Eastside safety concerns

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler sat before a room of fed-up business owners on the city’s Central Eastside Tuesday evening. They wanted city leaders to tackle what they see as a public safety crisis — often tied to homeless camps — that endangers their workers and their operations.

Some, such as Revant Optics owner Jason Bolt and Salt & Straw CEO Kim Malek, had already threatened to leave the area. Others asked the mayor why they should stay.

“We deal with break-ins, we deal with assaults,” said Darren Marshall, the CEO of Smith Teamaker. “This afternoon we had an explosion around the corner from us. Fire everywhere. That’s the world that we live in every day.”

So, the mayor promised action, including more law enforcement and — potentially — more sweeps of homeless camps.

Wheeler said the city would implement a so-called “90-day reset” in the largely industrial area, modeled after a strategy employed in Old Town earlier this year.

That plan, developed with the Old Town Community Association, was a metrics-driven approach to cracking down on street crime, trash and unauthorized tent camping. It identified measurable goals — from increasing the brightness of lamp posts to decreasing tent camping by 33% — and focused city resources on achieving them.

Wheeler said his office would work with the Central Eastside Industrial Council to develop a similar plan.

“We’re gonna put in the 90-day plan. We’re gonna increase the police presence. We’re gonna continue to focus on addressing homelessness in this part of the city,” the mayor told the assembled employers. “And I hope that over a period of some time you will see the improvement and your employees will see the improvement.”

Wheeler said Old Town’s 90-day reset reduced drug offenses and vandalism in the neighborhood. And he said the removal of “problematic camps” increased 450% in May 2022 compared to a year earlier.

Advocates for Portlanders experiencing homelessness criticized those…

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