Yet another captain for the Titanic

The mayor of Portland, Dud Wheeler, has declared an emergency. No, not in his pants, although that might be appropriate. Wheeler's declaration is that the homelessness situation in the city, particularly in its central core, is out of control.

He is just now noticing? The tent camps have been a blight on Portland for many, many months. Several years, all told. And for all the millions of tax dollars being thrown at the problem, it's getting worse instead of better.

You have to wonder why Dud is putting on his emergency helmet at this point. Surely the rich guys who are heckling him quite publicly through "People for Portland" have got his attention. But it's more than that. Even the average Joe and Jane can see that as the great Covid panic ends, Portland's streets and business districts are still seriously ill, with little or no sign of recovery. Wheelerville is not going to look good in history.

One problem is that the government response to the tent crisis is so scatter-brained. The problem is being addressed by way too many bureaucrats in way too many silos. City, county, Metro, and the many, many nonprofits in the homeless industrial complex. 

So what do the politicians do when there are too many bureaucrats? Why, create another layer of bureaucracy on top of the existing layers, of course. Which is what Wheeler is now setting up in the City Hall silo farm.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to use his executive powers to create a new homeless service hub within the city government, streamlining the work of various departments that interact with people living outside....

“Some of you might say, well this is common sense isn’t this already happening?” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “And the answer sadly is no, or at least not at the scale it should be happening.”

The guy in charge of the new layer is named Mike Myers, who is currently the "community safety director" and used to be the fire chief. No, not that Mike Myers. This guy:

What Wheeler is pointing out makes some sense, but his latest move is way too little to organize the current fustercluck. As I say, the city isn't the only player. There is the county, which just named its own czarina of homelessness on Tuesday. There is Metro, there are the nonprofits, probably some others. So much overhead, and nobody can get anything done. 

Meanwhile, the only narrative that most politicians are brave enough to own up to around here is that somehow government is going to provide a nice little free apartment or shack to everyone currently in a tent. But given that a sizeable percentage of those folks are suffering from hard-core drug addiction or mental illness, they can't or won't function indoors. And so the "housing first" emphasis that the county and the complex are touting is a fool's errand.

The real problem is that in Portland any more, government will never, ever tell anybody on the street what they can and can't do. No rules! Just the other day the people who are running the successful recovery program in the former Wapato Jail tore up their deal to run one of the city's planned managed camps. Why? Because there aren't going to be enough rules to make it a safe place. Rather than adopt any sort of tough love whatsoever, the city will let the successful operators walk.

Good luck, Mike Myers, one of the countless co-captains of the doomed ship. Do let us know if your bosses ever decide to get real.


  1. You can't solve a problem that you don't have the tough love guts to fix. How about a complete ban on illegal camping? How about arresting and jailing thieves? How about separating the wheat from the chaff- and rewarding good people down on their luck and telling scum to hit the road? I know I'm painting a broad brush stroke on a too long festering mess, but we've gotten nowhere being enablers and thinking the only problem is housing.


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