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Salem task force renews effort to clear city sidewalks

July 31, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A proposed ordinance that would ban people from sitting or lying down on Salem sidewalks has been revived.

The proposal by the city’s Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force also seeks to prohibit people from leaving personal items on sidewalks, the Statesman Journal reported Monday.

The task force was created last October after the city council rejected a similar proposal.

City officials did not say why they decided to reintroduce the proposed ban.

City Councilor Cara Kaser, who chairs the task force, said as recently as last month that the ban was not being considered.

A report by the task force cites problems observed by downtown businesses and shoppers including public urination and defecation; homeless people using customer restrooms to bathe and wash clothes; and behaviors such as drug use, littering, vandalism, shoplifting and solicitation.

Some business owners are supporting the proposal, said Kristin Retherford, the director for Salem Urban Development.

A Multnomah County court ruled about a decade ago that a similar Portland ordinance was unconstitutional.

“Even if nothing immediately moves forward, the fact that we’ve got businesses and service providers and advocates all talking to each other now is a good thing,” Retherford said. “The information sharing has improved.”

The task force also is considering recommending that groups who serve free meals to homeless people obtain a permit, stamp their organization’s name around the food packaging and be held responsible for cleaning any packaging left behind.

The task force is expecting to finalize its recommendations on Wednesday, which will be sent to Mayor Chuck Bennett and the city manager.

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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