Wait… Downtown Businesses Say What?

By Bethany Carlson & Dave DeLuca

Homeless3Meanwhile, the Downtown Corvallis Association (DCA), or at least their board of directors, has suddenly changed its tune.

DCA was a driving force behind the downtown crackdown known as TAP-9, but now the board radiates optimism that the Coalition will handle the shelter well. Individual board members had previously expressed personal worry in City Council meetings about the effect the wet shelter might have, but at least one has now said that he has changed his mind and views it more positively. At the same time, largely anonymous comments from many rank-and-file members of DCA depict the current shelter as deleterious and the proposed one as even worse.

Our interviews with downtown business people, many of which are DCA members, found a large majority expressing worries about the shelter, and none said there had been direct communication from the
Coalition about their concerns.

Employees at one downtown business, who prefer to remain anonymous, typified many interviews; they are frustrated with some panhandlers’ excessive littering, public urination, and such. “Albany is twice as clean,” stated one employee, who went on to voice what may be a pressure that keeps many business owners silent or anonymous, saying, “Everybody is so concerned about being a bad guy.”
“No rules and regulations over there [at the shelter] mean more drunks over here,” continued another employee. “Property values will plummet. If it goes full time, and the accountability stays the same, we’ll probably have to close.”

Nick Wannenmacher, the manager of the Heartland Humane Society Thrift Shop and a DCA member, says, “If there are no expectations imposed on the recipients of free drop-in shelter/food services…we will become a magnet for the West Cascades transients [Washington to California] and they will definitely come.”

Meanwhile, John Semadeni, DCA board member, says that the CHSC seems to be well organized, and he is satisfied with the level of communication that has been maintained by the Coalition. “We see it as an opportunity to partner, to welcome somebody into the DCA district,” he says.

“Time will tell” how the shelter will affect downtown, Semadeni says, continuing, “We’re going to let the plan play out” and deal with problems if they arise after the shelter is built, rather than critiquing the Coalition’s current plan. “We have to trust that they have their plan set and everything, and that their volunteers are able to do exactly what they say.”

The DCA has met with Gina Vee of the Coalition. “All the information we got seemed positive,” Semadeni says. “It seemed like people at the helm knew what they were doing.”

Semadeni, when asked what the DCA leadership is hearing from their members, said that people are wondering about what will happen, and have been worried over bad behavior this winter. He did not indicate whether DCA members have expressed concerns specifically about the wet shelter plan, and emphasizes that negative behavior already exists downtown regardless of whether the new shelter is constructed.

Fred Edwards, vice president of the DCA, added about the shelter plan, “I think it’s going to be very good. It’s going to be okay. I’m going to have the confidence to say that I think it will.” Edwards is the president of Knight Vision Security, a private security firm located in Corvallis. In a public-record email sent to DCA members in May, Edwards wrote, “Is undesirable and illegal behavior negatively impacting your business? [TAP-9] is effective, but enforcement has been reduced. Now what? Knight Vision Security President Frederick J. Edwards heard your concerns at recent Downtown Corvallis Association meetings and is ready to respond!” The letter goes on to describe the uniformed security force that Knight Vision can provide as “a visible, welcoming presence in Downtown Corvallis” to support businesses during the tourist season.