By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

To tow or not to tow?

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Comments

Jim

Tow!

Joel

We can't be the only small town in the northwest that suddenly had all of these old RV's show up and start parking on our streets.
If they haven't already, I'd suggest the City Council reach out to the community leaders in other towns and ask them how they have dealt with it.

Rich

Give them 1 ticket then tow if they don’t comply

Sspssp

Justin walker has actually been living on the streets for almost a year now due to his drug addiction and the flawed legal system. He is mentally ill and in serious need of drug rehab. He was recently incarcerated and in a position for the legal system to step in and help him find the treatment he desperately needs. I personally sent letters to the judge and the DA’s office explaining his situation and pleading for help. He was released back to the streets with no mental help or drug rehabilitation. He is a danger to himself and all others around him. His family has repeatedly tried to help him get the treatment he needs for many years. The system is flawed!!!

Rotwang

Tow, please!

jillid33

Tow & paint the curb yellow! Marsh is a mess. As an entrance to our beautiful community park, ridiculous. Used to hike the hill from the park. No more. City needs to step up!

macgreg

Maybe Mr.Scales needs to find a different job,since he will not enforce the law.

tagup

First...Give them a place to go....if they choose not to use the designated area, then Tow them.....but they need to have a spot or the problem will continue to occur....

Bill B

I sort of agree with Tagup (I know hard to believe). If there is not an identified place for them they will just move to another street; maybe mine! I do think there should be restrictions/regulations surrounding living in these identified locations.

Larry3

There are two issues here - derelict vehicles, and homeless camping. Derelict vehicles are a solid waste problem that the steel mill will be happy to resolve. A junkyard can tow, impound and recoup their money in parts and scrap. Homeless camping is a separate issue. If you tow their camp vehicle, you take their clothes, identification, and everything they own. They need a place to go that's not on the street.

macgreg

Move to McmInnville ,our police chief wont do a thing

Jim

I have to disagree that Chief Scales isn’t doing his job. I personally think you have a City Council that is split on what to do with these people and he isn’t allowed to do what is needed. It’s a tough job being a Police Officer in this day and age. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

sbagwell

I don't see either the chief or the council at fault here.
The council has banned streetside RVs and instituted stiff fines for their continued presence. But the occupants have no money to pay fines, nor any meaninful possessions the city could attach in response to the non-payment. So they are effectively free to ignore both the ban and the fines.
The council could grant the chief the authority to tow the dilapidated rigs the squatters are occupying, but he is on record as saying he doesn't plan to tow any rigs with people in them or forcible evict anyone to get around that problem. And I stand with him 100 percent on that.
It might take a SWAT team to get some of these people out. Considering at least one of them is a militant open-carry advocate, that could result in a very ugly incident.
I don't think the chief would earn much community support if occupants, officers are both got shot in the course of dealing with a trespassing case.
There is simply no easy answer, only a hard answer. The hard answer is getting these people into a more tenable housing situation, which is a lot easier said than done.
Steve

Matt Scales

I would say this is the most complex, challenging problem any Chief of Police or police department can deal with. We are not alone as a city trying to navigate these issues. I appreciate most comments as they do provide insight into what our community is feeling. Thank you

Trafik

I live adjacent to a significant feeding ministry which means a five-days-a-week parade of people shouting obscenities and congregating to smoke, swear and hold belching contests (yes, they really do and sometimes the girls win) on the other side of my hedge. This renders my back deck, patio, yard and swimming pool unusable for several hours most summer afternoons — at least for young children who don’t need to be exposed to a prolonged stream of such conversation and behavior.

On the other hand, this ministry does a world of good for hundreds of local people every week. So I can live with a few ill-mannered annoyances, knowing the ministry is benefiting so many. Where I have historically drawn a line, however, is with people who have attempted to stay overnight — sometimes in vehicles, sometimes in makeshift tents. My opposition to overnight camping was underscored one recent evening when I caught an adult male peeking in a bedroom window. Since that time, I have regularly called M.P.D. when people congregate after dark on the ministry’s grounds.

Another recent evening, I took note of a small motorhome parked on the lot long after the ministry had finished serving for the day. As dusk fell, I approached the vehicle — a regular visitor — and politely told the man sitting behind the wheel he couldn’t stay overnight. He replied that his R.V. had engine trouble. The sense of dejection and utter resignation on his face and in his voice was heartbreaking.

I do not know where the solution lies. I sympathize with homeowners who are affected because I am one of them. But I can’t imagine confiscating-by-towing the last vestige of stability belonging to a near-homeless family does anything at all to solve the problem — other than allowing mean-spirited people to congratulate themselves.

Surely this community is above simplistic non-solutions and non-action.

Mudstump

I agree with Tagup - designate a place for these folks to park and if they continue to park illegally tow the vehicle. Also, are there any RV/manufactured home parks that will take the people that can afford to rent a space? Is every park full?

Trafik

My understanding of the R.V. parks, Mudstump, is that most/all of them have strict limits on the ages and conditions of the vehicles they permit to park — that park constraints would exclude almost all of the outlier fleet, regardless of ability to pay.

Joel

I love your first comment Trafik.
My usual default mode of thinking is "they're breaking the law, hold 'em accountable and get 'em outta here." But hearing your personal, face to face experiences with the issue is powerful and gives me a lot to think about.

Mudstump

I can envision a development for campers, cars, RVs, tiny houses and starter homes. Complete with bathrooms, showers, laundry, daycare and an office with computers and job postings, as well as, resources for referrals to rehab facilities and mental health counseling. Occupants could pay on a sliding scale for services or volunteer the keep things running. This would give the homeless a safe place to go away from businesses and neighborhoods. Having many of the homeless in one or two locations allows agencies to be more efficient and cost effective with their help.

Lulu

Another plus, the police know exactly where to go. Because there will be 3 a.m. fights and screaming in the night and who knows what?

Chris Chenoweth

I greatly appreciate the stories on this page from Sspssp and Trafik but if they don’t want help how are you going to make them take it?
Jim you are dead on, the problem is at the Council level. Inaction and hand ringing have left the police in an untenable position. It is not their fault although they could do a better job of investigating and prosecuting property crimes. If we provide a location for the current trailer inhabitants to relocate to won’t that just continue the cycle of enabling that began when they first starting being shipped here from Portland? Won’t that just invite more folks who are perfectly content living the gypsy lifestyle? At what point do we say the law is the law its time to move?
The answer is easy, start one at a time focusing on the ones that are creating problems and the rest will go. The question is this: Do Mac residents back that approach? What I have found is the answer from the silent majority is a resounding yes.

Trafik

In your first sentence, Chris Chenoweth, you assert the people in question don’t want help. In your fourth sentence, you state — more or less — that helping them is enabling them. In between, you blame inaction on the part of the city council (and it’s “hand-wringing,” by the way, not “hand ringing”), further declaring that people are “being shipped here from Portland.”

I’m sorry, but your entire post is disjointed and ill-focused.

While some local transient folks are undoubtedly from other places, I’ve seen no evidence anyone is “being shipped” from Portland, which implies a concerted effort to move houseless people from one location to another. Do you have evidence or facts to support this? Who’s behind the shipping?

Your next troubling point oversimplifies a solution. Yes, you’re right, the easiest answer would be to tow every R.V. in question. But does that solve anything other than removing the vehicles from the streets? Where do you think the occupants will go? Are they better off camping furtively in the forested areas in town? Are the rest of us better off this way?

Finally, I’ve heard both grumbling and praise for this community’s efforts to feed the hungry — grumbling because some think our free meals are luring the needy from other cities; praise because multiple local groups have stepped up to make sure no one goes unfed. Anecdotally, organizations like the Soup Kitchen at St. Barnabas, Hope on the Hill, YCAP, McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, First Baptist Church and others seem to enjoy broad and enthusiastic community support. I’m unsure your silent majority is as large or as convinced as you think it is.

I, too, lament the abrogation of accountability. But, in this situation, I believe a blanket zero-tolerance toughlove-style policy is graceless, uncivil and immoral. When I moved to this area, I was taken by its earnest hospitality. I believe this spirit sets us apart from lesser communities.

tagup

Clearly running for office is easier than being in office....

Jim

Mudstump how do you envision to finance your encampment with the facilities you outlined for the homeless ?

Chris Chenoweth

Trafik, I think you misunderstood my entire point. The question in this article was not about what social services we need to be offering to those in need. It goes without saying that the homeless problem is a complex multi-faceted issue and each person facing homelessness needs their specific cause addressed. However, social services are not in the cities budget so from a potential candidate’s perspective I have precious few options in that regard. That is a function of Yamhill County, the State of Oregon, the Federal Government and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). So, I was answering the question in the article I was not ignoring the needs of the homeless, it’s just not part of this question. Second my question about what do we do with those who do not want help was a sincere question, it was not meant as an assertion about the specific stories. We know there is a portion that simply don’t want help, they are content in the no responsibility lifestyle. Advocates often say that we cannot not treat the homeless with a blanket approach, they tell us that every situation is different. Since the city has no social services what is in the city’s purview? Preventing crime and doing our dead level best to maintain livability, security and safety for our citizens is in our purview. Thus my question about what to do with those who don’t want help was targeted at the portion the city can address. Lastly when I used the term enabling again I was referring to the problem of long-term illegal parking/camping on McMinnville’s streets. The cities policies (or lack thereof) and approach have enabled this problem. I was not giving a blanket response to a multifaceted issue, I was giving a targeted response to a subset of the issue. Please don't misconstrue my response as one that ignores the desperate needs that many of the homeless have. That is a separate topic from what this article asked.

Trafik

In hindsight, Chris Chenoweth, my post sounded harsher than I intended. But your second post — more well-thought-out than your first — doesn’t address one troublesome point, deflects another and skirts a third.

You pointedly stated people were “being shipped here from Portland” — your exact words. You did not address that assertion when I questioned it.

I did not ask or state what social services we need to provide — we both know the city’s mandate is minimal. I responded as I did because you seemed to espouse a rigid “the law is the law its [sic] time to move” policy — your words again. You stated “The answer is easy, start... focusing on the ones [who] are creating problems and the rest will go.” The premise of this article deals with a fleet of dilapidated motorhomes — illegally parked — clogging certain streets within McMinnville. By this standard, all are the problem.

My thought — without coming right out and saying it earlier — is that the motorhomes currently occupying N.E. Marsh Lane and the nearby approach to YCAP are best left where they are for the moment. Overwhelmingly, public complaints have centered around the vehicles’ proximity to residential areas. The Marsh Lane and YCAP groups are not affecting homeowners for the most part and, as a temporary measure, I can think of few other locations where impact to homeowners is as minimal. To be clear, this is only a temporary measure until more suitable quarters can be found. Not ideal but no temporary solution will be.

You also asked “If we provide a location for the current trailer inhabitants to relocate to won’t that just continue the cycle of enabling...” Sorry, you’re now claiming that phrase refers to the city enabling this problem in the first place? I think most reasonable people read that as I believe you originally intended, enabling bad behavior, bad choices.

I’m not trying to be mean or nasty, but when you run for public office, you must own your words.

Chris Chenoweth

Trafik, Thank you so much for changing the tone to one than encourages dialogue. I appreciate that and believe that it is sorely needed these days.

I did not address the Portland assertion because I concluded by reading your response that it was just best to agree to disagree on that point. I have some anecdotal evidence that points directly to Portland paying bus fare to ship homeless out of their area but it is not a sticking point to anything I said so it was better to just let that go. I was told once I don’t have to catch every ball that comes my way so I let that one bounce.

As to my enabling statement, I still have not communicated effectively. The city enabled the problem by not addressing it when it started. To then provide another location presumably funded by the taxpayer will just continue the cycle of enabling that the city continues to follow. The phrase “if you build (or allow it) they will come”, drives the point home. I believe that and I own it. I have said on the radio, it is on my literature and I said it on this forum loud and clear.

I want to be clear that the problem of homelessness weighs heavy on anyone, including me, who has a heart and runs for public office. It is just that I think each individual entity needs to stay focused on what their role is and the city's is not social services. Should we reach a population of 100,000 that may change but for now, it is not.

Thank you for being up front and admitting what your position is. That is a rare thing these days and I truly appreciate it. Effective dialogue begins when all sides are intellectually honest. I hope you are there for the upcoming talk for Zero Waste as you will hear again a person who is willing to state what he believes. I am doing so because I love this community and I don’t believe the Council’s current philosophy aligns with the majority of the residents. The voters will ultimately decide.

Trafik

I have a moderate outlook, firmly rooted in the reasonable and reasoned center, Chris. I do not endorse policies enabling rampant abuse of public assistance. But I cannot support policies designed solely to ameliorate the concerns of one group without achieving any meaningful goal. In this case, preserving a façade of law and order by towing some junk R.V.s and leaving the occupants without shelter not only fails to achieve any goal other than eyesore removal, but arguably worsens a bad situation by rendering sheltered people unsheltered. Several dozen people currently living in those R.V.s will then camp out in McMinnville’s abundant forested areas but one group of vocal locals will consider it a victory because the ugy motorhomes are gone from an industrial area. Seriously? Dumping a bunch of people in the woods will not reduce crime — I would argue the opposite. And for those who do obtain housing, my guess would be the state’s share will be somewhat more than if they’d been allowed to stay in their R.V.s in the first place.

There’s a fine line between providing an adequate array of needed services to vulnerable people and rolling out the welcome mat for every loser who wants nothing more than a bottle of Night Train and a free ride. I realize rural Oregon is the land of “no,” where a good portion of the tax-paying citizenry defaults to a no vote whenever any tax increase is proposed, no matter the reason. (More than once, I’ve shaken my head in wonder as I’ve watched entire city governments — including public safety — shut down elsewhere in the state because the populace failed to see the importance of such services when it came time to pay taxes.)

But for better or worse, we live in troubled times and the old ways sometimes no longer apply. Personally, I’d prefer to err on the side of optimism and compassion rather than on the side of outdated myopia and rigid thrift. Whether anyone likes it or not, we’re all in this together.

Chris Chenoweth

Trafik, Thank you so much for dialogue! I think we all believe we are firmly rooted in reason. The question is whose reality are we rooted in?

I would argue that your response makes a couple of assumptions. First you assume that cleaning up the trailers will require towing all of them and thus rendering current occupants unsheltered. That is a highly unlikely scenario. While that argument provides a certain emotional tug, it ignores the realities in the approach I have suggested. Second you refer to a group of vocal locals. Your wording seems to imply a small minority and only ones who are vocal. I can assure you that the number of folks that have reached frustration on this topic is much higher than you know and spans all demographics and is across the political spectrum. The frustration is not limited to locals. As I have talked to constituents I have paid no mind to what political side I talk to. My goal is to represent all constituents in my ward. I have spoken to hardline Trump supporters, sanctuary status supporters, business owners and SEIU reps alike. I have made myself a target and tried to answer every question thrown at me. Already the News Register editorial board has started firing. I am good with that. I think they should start every article and editorial opinion discussing Ward 1 with an admission of a conflict of interest.

I whole heartedly agree with your fine line statement and my argument is we have crossed the line and it is time to pull back.

May I be defensive for a moment? Thank you. You may not be meaning to come across as implying a direct correlation between towing and lack of empathy or desire to see these folks helped but that is what I hear in your tone and nothing could be further from the truth. You can on one hand decide to tow based on livability and public safety concerns and at the same time on the other hand want to help provide transition out for those who want such transition.

Trafik

Don’t get me wrong, Chris, I’m not a bleeding heart anything-goes sort. Portland — a city I loved — is being destroyed by abundant tolerance and scarce accountability. I do not want to see such chaos repeated here.

When I responded to your first post, I did so because I felt you were repeating a fallacy in stating people were “being shipped here from Portland.” That may have happened a handful of times over two decades but no evidence exists to suggest it took place on a statistically significant scale. I also disliked your blunt assessment that “the problem is at the [McMinnville City] Council level.” As you later stated, the city’s ability to control this problem is limited. The personal phone numbers of three of our councilors are in my own phone’s directory — they are people I respect; I dislike seeing them disparaged in disingenuous terms. My motivation to respond to you had as much to do with your position on this issue as on your aggressive posture.

You are correct in stating I make assumptions: since we’re talking about towing motorhomes in violation of McMinnville’s newly enacted on-street R.V. parking ordinance, I assume nearly all of those in violation will, in fact, be towed if that decision is taken. I do not believe such an assumption is a reach.

As I detailed in my first post, (above, just after Chief Scales’ post), my household is personally affected by the behaviors of guests at a popular local feeding ministry. Some of those guests are occupants of the R.V.s we’ve been discussing. I am well aware of high local frustration levels — believe me, I’ve shared it. On the assumption (yes, another) we’re debating tow versus don’t tow, my position is simply to allow the Marsh Lane and YCAP groups to remain where they are, unmolested, until a more permanent solution is found. I am not addressing the much broader issue of homelessness in general.

And nice SEIU mention — I’m not a fan but that’s another conversation. :-)

Chris Chenoweth

Trafik, You might be careful with your comparing Portland to McMinnville, I did that it is was deemed worthy of an oped jab. :)

Thanks again for this wonderful discourse. We certainly won't agree on this point. Let me say my position is one that I intend to do my dead level best to treat everyone's rights as equal. I don't find the farmer, YCAP, Mac Water & Light employees and customers, Joe Dancer Park users, the residents on Riverside and the business in the industrial district as being any less important than any other member of our community. Somehow we have come to a place where one groups rights supersede others and the rule of law is ignored when it is inconvenient or politically dangerous to enforce it. I won't be bullied by those who seek to bully on either side. I want everyone's voice heard, even the silent majority. (that's clearly not aimed at you Trafik).

That being said, I have made my number available on my Facebook page, feel free to use it. I want to be available to the constituents and not spend my time lobbying in Salem.

It is fascinating timing that within hour of mentioning a potential conflict of interest for the News Register this article dropped of the most viewed and most commented list.

Trafik

I always thought it was automated — where the top stories cycled out after a certain period of time, regardless of reads, comments or clicks. But I could be wrong.

While I applaud your efforts to treat all rights as equal, Chris, the semi-emergent nature of the semi-homeless fleet might deserve inequal attention — given there are children in the mix and assuming the Marsh Lane and YCAP parking locations are temporary. It's not ideal but forcible eviction without a reasonable alternative will do more damage than restoring MW&L and YCAP's unimpeded rights-of-way, in my opinion.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to deal with streetside squatters. But we live in an imperfect world and we are forced, at times, to embrace imperfect solutions.

sbagwell

I hate to crush another good conspiracy theory, but you are correct. The system is fully automated. No human intervention is involved.
Steve

Chris Chenoweth

Ah bummer you ruined my evening! It was great timing though. :)

Dean

We had two vehicles that were abandoned on our street and we reported it to the police. They showed up, took the information and it still took 3wks to finally have one of them removed. The other finally got towed another week and a half later. This is faster than it used to be.

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