Four organizers with Tenant Rights Project used their alloted 3 minute time slots at this week's Wednesday morning Portland City Council meeting to criticize a local slumlord housing corporation and housing commissioner Nick Fish. The council objected to the "harsh rhetoric" of tenants.
Tenant Rights Project started organizing CCC tenants in the fall of 2008. CCC is a $33,000,000 annual budget nonprofit, with 23 buildings and 1400 tenants. There are persistent pest control (cockroaches, mice and bedbugs) problems in several buildings, crime (drugs, prostitution, sex harassment) that has moved into some of the buildings (aided and abetted by CCC managers in some buildings), and lack of transparency: the CCC board of directors has an 'oral preference' that tenants aren't allowed to attend board meetings or to speak at board meetings. Tenants are also forbidden to get copies of board minutes -- a practice that Community Alliance of Tenants (which TRP has been talking with since November, 2008) says may be illegal, under Oregon Attorney General John Kroger rules regarding transparency and nonprofits.
At this week's Aug. 26 city council meeting, tenants criticized Fish's refusal, for six months now, to meet with tenant organizers on these issues. Fish said nothing in response to this complaint. Instead, Fish launched into a long talk about people misusing the First Amendment, likening tenant protesters to the conservative protesters against Obama's health plan proposal. Fish deplored the lack of civility in public discourse, and suggested tenant organizers should "alter their delivery" and use 'less harsh' rhetoric, etc.