So this month I’m tipping and then promptly eating my hat to City Councilmember Clark Gilman for following through on his words. He actually spoke in quiet, respectful support of building a bathroom at the Artesian Well. Jessica Bateman spoke in fervor and strength calling for action. Jim Cooper pushed as well calling out both the lack of action and the slowness of the Pilot Program’s implementation of the plan to provide additional portable toilets. And after much consideration, Jeanine Roe surprised me and many others by voting in favor of the motion. The council voted 4 to 3 in favor of constructing a Portland-Loo-style bathroom at the well to replace the unlit, unsanitary plastic affront to sanitary senses that currently resides there.
Just Housing speakers were left speechless not only by the surprise victory but also by some classic classism that was displayed by several members of City administration. From blaming so-called conflicts in the Woodland Trail on “different user groups,” to asking what the community will do to keep the homeless folk using the bathroom in line, to threatening the permanent closure of all brick-and-mortar facilities should any damage or misconduct occur. A closure of this kind would once again deny our street peeps any humane place to take a dump. Oh, and the Social Contract, because nothing says tone deaf hypocrisy like scolding citizens after years of criminalizing homelessness and continuing to do so.
Seriously, Steve Hall and Julie Hankins? And to Councilmember Hankins specifically: whatever happened to that homeless center you called for while running for your last election? We certainly aren’t going to trust someone who promises aid and then shrilly sputters condescension at kids and homeless folk for doing something. We have a Federal administration that isn’t interested in helping anyone but Big Money. It certainly isn’t helping queer folk, non-Christians, or folks historically more at risk for homelessness and less assisted by existing support structures.
We need people who aren’t in the pockets of the makers to lead us, and Councilmember Hankins’ worship of the Downtown Strategy and denial of equal access to services is as far from progressive, egalitarian values as you can get. Our street peeps are people, not a counterbalance on some neolib spreadsheet; they aren’t collateral damage, ticks on a list of dead after an economic battle; they have lives, worth, and meaning entirely removed from the commodifiable utility. Personally I am looking to see if a progressive, with-the-people candidate could challenge her. Julie Hankins has nothing to show the common people for her efforts in helping the homeless get the services and necessities that we all deserve. Now is the time to end this legacy of gentrification and corrupt statism. She defends herself with the cries of respectability politics, defending her statements as requests for politeness while forgetting that the real Social Contract demands that the City, as a body of elected officials provide services to its citizens. We do not owe obeisance to representatives who can neither fathom our struggles nor care for the plight of the least among us. They owe us humane services that are guaranteed to us by our Constitution and by the promises for dignity and sanctuary that this Council has made. Turns out: Clark Gilman listens, Julie Hankins doesn’t. Time for a change.
Alden Marsen is an Evergreen College dropout and pithy critic of local government.