Court of Appeals rules sidewalk ordinance violates state law

Court of Appeals rules sidewalk ordinance violates state law
- By Bob Heye
and KATU Web Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled an ordinance passed several years ago that makes it a crime to block a sidewalk is in violation of state law.

Back in 2003, a Portland teacher was arrested and fined $175 under the ordinance, which was designed to keep the city's sidewalks and streets clear for pedestrians and traffic.

The ordinance was passed in part because authorities wanted to clear out an anti-war gathering, dubbed the Portland Peace Encampment, that had sprung up across from City Hall. The gathering was dispersed hours after the ordinance took effect.

Portland's City Council has since revised the case and attorneys for the city are looking at whether the ruling by the Court of Appeals applies to the current version of the city ordinance.

Portland Chief Deputy City Attorney Harry Auerbach told KATU News "our office is reviewing the decision which was directed at the ordinance before it was amended."

The same ordinance also regulates merchandise set out on city sidewalks, which means the ruling could also affect sidewalk displays, like signs for businesses.

The ruling is so new, and potentially wide-ranging, that city officials are not sure yet what grounds an appeal to Oregon's Supreme Court might be based on.