By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: The wrong kind of destination resort

We hear a growing background buzz about the considerable expansion of small and large homeless encampments in McMinnville. That murmur will grow after today’s News-Register story explaining why the city of McMinnville appears helpless to quell the trend.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Officials point to the much-debated September 2018 decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held: “We consider whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from prosecuting people criminally for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no home or other shelter to go to. We conclude that it does.”

Importantly, that opinion proscribes prosecution when “those people have no home or other shelter to go to.” It does not ban the removal of homeless camps under certain circumstances.

Such decisions take months or years to evolve in practice. Meanwhile, McMinnville doesn’t want an expensive, perhaps unwinnable lawsuit, and the city’s insurance carrier reportedly has threatened to withhold coverage for such legal action.

Meanwhile, as sidewalk and roadway encampments continue to expand, little attention is given to the federal court’s fine print:

“Our holding is a narrow one … Even where shelter is unavailable, an ordinance prohibiting sitting, lying, or sleeping outside at particular times or in particular locations might well be constitutionally permissible … So, too, might an ordinance barring the obstruction of public rights of way or the erection of certain structures.”

In Seattle, where big city homelessness turned epidemic, a 2017 city law banned “erecting unauthorized structures, tents, or other structures in locations that create an obstruction or an immediate hazard.” Seattle continues its enforcement of that law, with this definition of “obstruction”:

“People, tents, personal property, garbage, debris or other objects related to an encampment that are: in a City park or on a public sidewalk; interfere with the pedestrian or transportation purposes of public right-of-way; or interfere with areas that are necessary for or essential to the intended use of a public property or facility.”

Just this month, the city of Seattle cleared a large homeless encampment once the site of several drug overdoses. Despite the federal ruling, Seattle continues its campaign to clean up and remove homeless encampments.

The buzz in McMinnville will continue, and grow. And as word spreads that we are a safe harbor for all manner of homeless encampments, McMinnville could become a different kind of destination resort from that envisioned by the local tourism industry.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1222.


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