Across the country, Business Improvement Districts/Enhanced Service Districts use public and private policing to gentrify our neighborhoods at the expense of the most vulnerable and oppressed among us—as if we weren’t neighbors, but garbage to be swept away.
We must change this, and we want Portland to take the lead.
Instead of merely objecting as the Central Eastside Industrial Council rushed through their initial plan, we organized ourselves. We built power. We pushed back against their narrative about “livability” when what they really meant was private policing for business and property owners. We questioned the talk of security: for whom and against whom?
We countered their proposal with a positive vision for a Compassionate Change District. This is a district that demands our rights to the city and for us to be included in shaping it.
We won some major concessions, and our work has only begun.
Board representation of the houseless community, stronger protocols to reduce the harmful impacts of private security, and the promise of a safe sleep area in the Central Eastside are all significant and praiseworthy amendments to the ESD structure.
Our efforts not only stopped the initial plans, slated to be approved months ago, but through this process we changed how any proposed district should be created.
We have learned much from this campaign and from each other. We hope that people in other places will build on our experiences and reduce the harms typically caused by BIDs, and ultimately shift entirely away from erroneous notions of “security.”
We turn our sights now toward making sure the Central Eastside plan is implemented the right way. We will document every step of this project, in the hope that this will inspire more people to engage in similar struggles to create compassionate cities for all.