T H E E M A I L
Dear Councilwoman Ray,
I am writing in response to the July 6 article in the Press Herald titled "Portland tussles with food truck operators over Eastern Prom trash". I was frustrated and upset to read that the city was taking such a heavy hand with the food trucks, possibly banning them from the promenade, in response to the uptick in trash people are noticing.
I am a frequent runner and walker on the prom and use the trails 2-3xs a day and have noticed the increase in trash over the last year, but not from the food trucks. I see McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, cans of beer, Red Bull, and all kinds of take-out all over the prom.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have seen overflowing trashcans which lead me to believe that the city is not emptying these trash cans frequently enough. Additionally, I see tons of trash by the lower picnic tables where there are no trashcans to be found.
I found the threat of banning the food trucks to be off-putting and silly in a time when we are all so happy to get back outside and enjoy the amazing food coming from these small businesses. I can't believe that there wasn't a better way to approach this problem, even as Jessica Grondin "downplayed the threat" while keeping it out there as a possibility by saying the "city is looking for a solution that doesn’t lead to that."
I hope that a less combative tone can come from the city in tackling this issue. If people aren't using the trashcans provided by the food vendors some less aggressive solutions may be:
I appreciate your time and service.
M Y R E S P O N S E
Hey, [NAME REMOVED].
Thanks for your email. I want to let you know that despite what the article implied, I don't believe anyone is seriously looking at banning food trucks from this area (or any other area in the city). To do that would require action by the City Council, and I don't know of any Councilors who are considering this at all.
I totally see how that impression was given by the article, so I don't blame you for being upset after reading it. I often find that news articles and stories are *mostly* right, but not always on the money. I attribute that to the need to constantly produce fresh content with fewer resources and hence, less opportunity for deep investigation or complete fact checking. Alas...it's the world we live in.
In terms of the volume of trash on the Eastern Prom, things I am looking at include:
Regarding your suggestions, we are doing our best to empty trash cans with greater frequency, but the city lost a lot of revenue due to the pandemic and had to cut 60+ positions from the budget last year (FY 21). We are still not yet up to full strength again, and our Public Works department is one of the departments that is struggling. We will certainly do our best to empty trash cans as they become full, and to increase DPW staff as we are able to accomplish this.
And as to people who are unhoused, we will certainly continue the outreach and the efforts to provide shelter and services to all who find themselves in that situation. In terms of how much of the trash problem on the Eastern Prom is being generated by people experiencing homelessness, I'm not convinced it's a large percentage overall.
Thanks again for writing, and for your suggestions. If the carry-in/carry-out policy doesn't seem like a good path, we may need to consider increasing or changing the placement of trash cans in this area. And I am in agreement with you that in general, we still need more trash cans and recycling bins distributed throughout the city.