By editorial board • 

Continued RV encampments pose thorny dilemma for city

McMinnville is in the process of learning something every parent discovers: It’s easier to issue orders than force compliance.

When an irate toddler refuses to follow directions, you can reason, bribe and demand by turn. But the toddler holds the upper hand.

He can force you to cave in unless you are willing to bring your superior physical force to bear, hard to justify in any but the most extreme circumstances.
So it is with the number of homeless RV dwellers the city is trying to evict from Marsh Lane and Dustin Court.

The city can assess all the fines it wants. But if it isn’t prepared to evict RV occupants by force or tow an occupied RV — which most would agree is out of reasonable proportion — it could well face a protracted stalemate.

As Police Chief Matt Scales acknowledged, “The city would not be towing RVs with people still inside of them. That goes without saying.”

Understandably, residents of the two affected neighborhoods long ago passed the point of frustration. They won’t be satisfied until the offending encampments have been cleared and can’t understand why the city is having such a tough time with the task.

Do Waco, Ruby Ridge and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ring any bells? How about the more recent protest encampment at ICE headquarters in Portland?
The fact is, people resistant to moving on are hard to force out. Escalation to the use of force can quickly produce disastrous results.  

City Manager Jeff Towery promised an ordinance adding booting and towing to the city’s enforcement arsenal would soon be presented for council consideration. But if a four-month deluge of fines didn’t budge anyone, we don’t see much prospect for more hollow threats.

The RV dwellers are in desperate straits. Barely scraping by, they don’t regard pulling up stakes and moving on as a viable option.

We see no advantage to anyone in moving them downtown to church parking lots, as some have suggested. That simply promises to inflame a different neighborhood, one that has already borne more than its share of the homeless burden, because of earlier olive branches extended by downtown churches.

If they can’t gain access to alternative housing, the RV dwellers want a hassle-free place to park their rigs. That’s the bottom line for them, and by extension then, for the city.


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