No longer do Portlanders have to fight for their right to potty.
Last Thursday at 11 pm, the doors of City Hall opened to Portland's late-night peeing public in a bid to keep stranded club-hoppers and the homeless from watering the city's bushes, streets and sidewalks.
"It's a livability issue," says John Doussard, spokesman for Mayor Tom Potter, the chief advocate on City Council for Portland's after-hours potty initiative. "People will feel better about their city once their parks stop being treated like a toilet."
Setting aside $46,500 from the city's restroom and park-bench budget to maintain City Hall's pristine facilities and to pay for an additional overnight security guard, the City Council has created Portland's only after-hours city-run public toilet. The john joins eight other public toilets downtown that are open only during daylight hours. City Hall's loo will be available every night until 6 am.
And to keep those johns flowing, the city is testing out a $20,000 "grinder" at its public restroom at Southwest 4th Avenue and Clay Street. The grinder pulverizes the junk that regularly gets stuffed into Portland public toilets, creating backups that can put them out of service for weeks and cost the city thousands of dollars in repairs.
"Drano doesn't work," says Doussard, referring to flushed clothes and syringes—the chief culprits in toilet backups.
Part of the mayor's initiative to keep sidewalks clean and accessible, Portland's latest potty plan aims to expand bathroom access for the homeless in the hopes of getting them off the streets.
"If it's illegal to pee on the streets, then there has to be a place where it's not illegal," said Patrick Nolen, an organizer with Sisters of the Road, a homeless-advocacy group that lobbied the City Council to open up its bathrooms to the public after hours.
In six months, City Council will evaluate the cost of maintenance and extra staffing, along with the number of people who take advantage of the facilities.
As of Tuesday, 15 of people had been led, one at a time, through City Hall's locked front entrance by the security guard there to make sure patrons don't linger or cause a disturbance. Mayoral aide Kyle Chisek said there had been no reports of problems.
"Opening up City Hall's restroom for everyone has symbolic value," said Doussard. "But we want to make sure it gets used."
See video of Nolen and of WW's wee-hour wee at http://wweek.com/wwire/?p=8890.