God bless Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy. Regardless of what side of the political aisle one sits on, it’s tough to argue the point that Eugene’s mayor of 11 years is an extraordinary example of nicety meets diplomacy with a dash of controversy thrown in for spice. Mayor Piercy is a likable leader.
Reading the Sunday Register Guard reminded me that an issue myself and others had addressed during the days of the “Occupy” movement remains with us 4 years later. Downtown Eugene, Oregon has been inundated, over run if you will, with what the mayor has politically correctly labeled “Travelers.” The mayor states in so many words: ‘This is not a homeless issue. For many so called Travelers, it’s one of life style and personal choice.’
With no easy, timely resolution in sight for the area’s homeless,(sure there’s a city sanctioned camp or two) the situation downtown has gotten a bit out of hand. In-fact, from what I witness walking the streets of Broadway, if anything, what the city is now referring to as a “Traveler” issue, has grown measurably worse. It’s not uncommon for a visitor to our fair city to have to walk off of a public sidewalk, into the street, to pass a corner planted group of dog toting, verbally defiant youthful Travelers. There’s no entertainment here babe!
We now see a growing shop vacancy rate in the downtown area, will these so called Travelers return Eugene’s downtown to the vacant retail shell of last decade?
I don’t know when it happened, I too travel quite a bit. But somewhere in the liberal – conservative stirring pot that is Eugene, Oregon, Ms Piercy politely put her foot down. It’s time to address the downtown Traveler infestation.
Perhaps she too grows tired of the stench of urine and dog waste tarnishing what was less than two seasons past, Eugene’s shining national model for viable, affordable downtown revitalization; now apparently nothing more than a compromise between those that participate within the system and the disenfranchised, so we’re told.
The mayor of Eugene is teetering on a tightrope that is the balancing act of city management meets merchant access and the loiterers civil rights, Travelers in this case, mostly just Bums by another name. Damn the millions of city matched reinvestment dollars poured into the revitalization of Eugene’s city core, we wouldn’t want to encroach on the civil rights of what our parents and grandparents aptly labeled as “Bums.” Young, old, hey – move along!
Perhaps my stated observation is a bit harsh by 2015 social standards, but where’s the balance between Traveler encroachment and right to free passage? Who’s protecting and promoting the downtown merchant’s investment in the city core, the citizen’s right to public area access without having to consider safety, sanity and a possible confrontation with an agitating panhandler?
Mayor Piercy is too nice, too diplomatic to call the downtown what it is: a Bum infestation. Once again we’ve attempted to wrap an eloquently crafted catch phrase around a growing problem with no logical, non abrasive, and possible civil rights infringing cure for an ageless problem; homelessness with a twist, these punks won’t move along.
And frankly, looking to the average age, obvious resources including transportation, cellphones, and enough money to support a dog or two, simply refuse to go! Watching the mix, one can’t help but notice that many of these kids are doing more business downtown than the licensed and housed merchants. And then there’s that downtown Weed dispensary, Great idea!
What happened to the downtown bicycle police patrol? While Mayor Piercy and the council consult with the city’s legal team, downtown merchants, locals and the occasional out of town visitors venturing out of the Whitaker, unwittingly and much to often, encounter a relatively small core group of young Travelers.
It’s not that kids are bad people, that’s not the point. What this group is doing is encroaching on the downtown visitors right of quiet enjoyment, in the of downtown region, and the new vision of what Broadway and downtown could and should be. As a journalist that travels much of the United States covering assignment, I’ve yet to witness the in-your-face blatant disregard for personal space and self entitlement projected by Eugene’s special brand of so called Travelers anywhere else in the nation.
It’s that “move along” thing that’s missing from Eugene’s Broadway corridor. Dare I say it, we need more cops downtown. As to the Travelers: They don’t look like they’re moving very fast or far to me. Hey, didn’t we see that same group here last weekend, last month, last summer? Where’s the travel in the Travelers, mayor?
Rearranging downtown sitting areas isn’t going to eliminate loitering Mayor Piercy has suggested that we once again, rearrange public sitting areas, a bench or two, post a sign here and there warning these kids of the downside of loitering, and blocking area enterprise. Seriously mayor?
Parked on Park Street, I watched a Traveler move her car from meter to meter looking for unused time, she was very resourceful. As Eugene becomes that city that one no longer wants to live in, visit or promote to visiting family and friends, Mayor Piercy puts out the call to the people of Eugene to step up and participate through personal public forum comment. Do you have an idea, do you have a working resolution to this age old problem? Here’s Mayor Piercy’s contact information.