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PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s statement on I-205 path conditions

Posted by on March 25th, 2019 at 4:56 pm

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last week I highlighted conditions on the I-205 path at NE Sandy Boulevard. The response to the coverage here and on Facebook was overwhelming.

My intention was to make people aware that this path and others have become dramatically impacted by our homelessness crisis. Not only was the path full of personal belongings and discarded items, many of our fellow Portlanders have become so desperate for a place to live that they built shelters directly on the path — nearly blocking it in some sections.

The comments here on BikePortland were mostly productive and I think overall we’ve all learned a lot about the various issues at play. Facebook was a different story. Too many of the 1,300 or so comments were useless and mean. So, after over 220,000 views and 2,500 shares in just four days, I took the video down and posted a note to explain why.

On Saturday, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, left a comment on that post that I think merits more attention. I’ve pasted it below:

You probably know this but the I-205 path is ODOT property and up until very recently ODOT’s sole responsibility — the city did not have jurisdiction for clean ups. An agreement between ODOT and the City was recently made and passed by Council granting the city the ability to conduct the clean ups. Why is this a good thing? Because the city has adopted more humane policies for camp clean-ups than ODOT and because ODOT has been hard to reach and slow to act in many areas letting hazardous situations grow and fester. The situation on this path is unacceptable and unsafe for everyone involved. It’s on the list for clean up, which I’ve been told is coming soon.

Also unacceptable is to sweep people when we don’t have viable alternatives to offer them. We only have a few sanctioned villages and people can’t just show up and pitch their tents. We don’t have and can’t manage enough alternative shelter sites for everyone who’s living outside. We don’t have adequate emergency shelter (outside of severe winter weather events) both in number of beds and types of demographics served and not every homeless person is willing or able to endure a shelter setting. And most importantly we don’t have adequate affordable housing, let alone the supportive housing needed by individuals who face challenges that prevent them from being succesful in housing on their own. There is literally nowhere for them to go — this is a local, regional, state, and national crisis.

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Very few people are homeless by choice. Poverty is not a choice. Mental illness is not a choice. Addiction is not a choice. And our housing crisis has pushed thousands of people into homelessness. That was a choice — a choice made by corporate interests and policy makers to not treat housing like the basic need and human right that it is— but the people who have suffered the consequences had no choice.

Once an individual becomes homeless it is exponentially harder to get back into housing and employment. It’s a dangerous, humiliating, and traumatic experience that can exacerbate existing conditions and cause new ones.

I know many Portlanders are frustrated by our homeless crisis. I also understand the frustration of cyclists who experience frequent and often dangerous infringement on our designated bike lanes and paths. And on the I-205 path those two frustrations converge with some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our city. I was disappointed to see some of the comments—both the misinformation and lack of compassion—but heartened by others. People experiencing homelessness are our neighbors and community members. They are suffering. And our entire society is failing them. I hope more people can keep these harsh realities in mind when they encounter scenes like the one you shared.

I hope we’ve all learned something here; or at least gained a broader perspective on how these complex issues intersect.

In hindsight, I would have handled this story differently. Even though we’ve covered homelessness from a non-cycling perspective on several occasions in the past, this time I left out important context.

I’m sorry my coverage gave a platform for hate and divisiveness. I’ll be more careful in the future.

If you’re curious about the status of the I-205 path at Sandy, the City of Portland addressed it on Thursday and posted this update to Twitter:

Thanks for all your feedback and comments.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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pdx2wheeler
Subscriber

So, would the city not sweep individuals without homes if they were to setup shelter on a city street, thereby blocking people in their motor vehicles?

Cooper Williams
Guest
Cooper Williams

Thanks for sharing, Jonathan

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center always seems to have beds available during Spring, Summer, and Fall. They have places where they can go, they just don’t want to go. Because not only we let them, but a large chunk of people encourage them to live on the streets.

dwk
Guest
dwk

So our city council person is basically is saying nothing can be done about the homeless/houseless/drug problem.
Thanks, Chloe…

Watashi
Guest
Watashi

I often wonder if the people of Portland would show the same compassion to campers if they were mostly black or brown. I don’t think when our people endure crippling poverty or drug addiction we were treated with such sympathy.

I am not making a comment on homelessness or the economic structure that promotes wealth inequality, but from a minority lens, excusing people who block public property and right of ways with their personal possessions reeks of privilege.

curly
Subscriber
curly

Homelessness aside…this is the only active transportation corridor to pass over, or under I-84 and the railroad right of way to the jobs in the Columbia River Corridor in East Portland. If the city is serious about active transportation alternatives to jobs in the corridor, this facility has to remain safe and usable. There are no sidewalks, or bike lanes to cross over, or under I-84 and the railroad between the 205 path and Gresham.
The Columbia River Corridor employs almost as many people as the downtown city center. This begs you to ask why east Portland continues fall behind the inner city when it comes to transportation infrastructure.
Because we still have no Neighborhood Greenways east of I-205 from the EPIM plan passed by council in 2012, it drives me a little crazy that so many people complain about the NE 9th Ave. alignment in the inner city while east Portland continues to wait for any Greenways that have been funded for years. I might add the 9th Ave. Greenway will come with a shiny new $15 million bridge connecting NE to SE and will be completed before all projects in the EPIM plan are completed. They were scheduled to be completed by 2017.

Tom
Guest
Tom

I’m not sure why you would expect Facebook not to be useless and mean. Its beyond useless and mean actually, and responsible for promoting some of the most vile hate groups, for sparking genocide, and aiding in slave trafficking. I’ve yet to see a useful and non-mean discussion on Facebook on any kind of controversial issue.

J_R
Guest
J_R

OK. Here’s my mean, useless comment: I, a reasonably fit male, no longer feel safe riding the I-205 Path. There’s no way my wife and kids can ride it. We have lost access to a commuter route and recreational facility that we previously used and even enjoyed. No more. I feel like it was stolen from us.

Chloe, I hope you try riding those paths – by yourself. Then let’s hear what you have to say.

Bike Guy
Guest

II’ll donate $$$ to her opponent. Not even kidding. She’s condescending and believes she’s unaccountable. She doesn’t know homeless people or social work – she is forever running for office. Don’t think she has compassion (did she do anything to help the homeless before she was elected? No, she ran a string of failed small businesses). Time for her to get off the campaign trail and start to govern if she doesn’t want to get unseated.

I don’t want to live in Portland if a class of people who trash the public sphere, create an atmosphere of danger, and threaten the weak and small, is categorically exempt from the law.

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

If everyone of them wanted a shelter to go to. Then, yes, 190 beds isn’t enough. But having a shelter that doesn’t get filled. Well, you come one with your idea of what happening. During the Summer, The Salvation Army is lucky to have 30 of those beds filled. I used to believe there just wan’t enough shelters and homes to go to. But now that I know how many beds The Salvation Army has and how they just don’t get filled for three-fourths of the year. Leads me to believe they want to be where they are.

rick
Guest
rick

But is Chole not opposed and viciously fighting the I-5 Rose Quarter project ?

LM
Guest
LM

Thanks for posting this Jonathan.

tee
Guest
tee

The 205 path should be an important part of the bike infrastructure in Portland. It’s so unsafe to ride that as a small female, I feel extraordinarily lucky to be able to get where I need to go without it. Not everyone who rides around the Eastside has that option. Chloe, you need to do better.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

The homeless are redefining the character of our city. Menacing, squalid and poorly governed. “our entire society society is failing them” and the city of Portland is leading that parade

q
Guest
q

“I’m sorry my coverage gave a platform for hate and divisiveness. I’ll be more careful in the future.”

Jonathan, I’d guess it’s impossible to write articles about many topics without having at least some people use them as platforms for hate and divisiveness. So don’t be hard on yourself. Generating some hate may be a sign that you’re writing about important things.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

So hide the problem? They won’t go to shelters because they have rules. So make rules about the trails and they will go.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Chloe’s comment was more intelligent and informed than many on this page. There aren’t easy solutions, it will take time and money and political will that does’t currently exist.

So many commenters’ “solutions” here seem to have no idea about the underlying realities of peoples’ lives, and seem to conveniently dovetail with the writers’ self interest.

Columbo
Guest
Columbo

It’s sad to see that Jonathan is no longer an advocate for cycling access in Portland. I don’t know where this blog is headed, but it probably shouldn’t be called BikePortland anymore if it refuses to stand up against crime, trash and violence making our MUPs unsafe and unusable.

If you think that’s harsh, you probably don’t live 2 two blocks off the path like I do. I’m sure Chloe doesn’t either.

Jonathan Gordon
Guest
Jonathan Gordon

I’m legitimately confused at the anger expressed at Chloe Eudaly for her post. As she said, up until very recently this was under ODOT jurisdiction and PBOT had no legal authority to touch the paths. And now that they do, “It’s on the list for clean up.” She’s saying the issue is going to be addressed. I imagine such an effort takes some planning and requires scheduling people with appropriate skills, experience and empathy. Perhaps folks can put the pitchforks down for a second and let that happen?

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Have you ever had someone take a swing at you while doing something as innocent as riding your bike?

Scott Kocher
Guest
Scott Kocher

I respect her efforts but Commissioner Eudaly’s diplomatic choices of phrase only slightly mask framing this as a “frustrated cyclists vs. desperately poor and vulnerable people” issue. That’s not fair. First, it reduces a broad and diverse range of path users and would-be path users to a monochrome—one that is politically acceptable to trivialize. Second, it presses people who use paths into the service of the haters. As a path user I called 911—and asked for a welfare check—after I was threatened with a knife by an unwell person under the Morrison Bridge. Today. Finally, framing the issue as us vs. them invalidates path users’ experiences by contrasting those experiences with the unquestionably worse experiences of desperate poverty. That’s a good way to deflect calls for action. Which might serve an elected leader well. But it isn’t fair to anyone.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Bottom line: Money is the solution to this (and other) problems. And in today’s tax-cut manic society, money won’t be forthcoming. Have you seen the tax cuts planned for the new baseball stadium? Must get used to the have-nots being in your face. They’re here to stay and more are on the way. Lots more.

RH
Guest
RH

Check out the news documentary “Seattle is dying” about the homeless situation up there , why it’s happening, and solutions offered.
https://komonews.com/news/local/komo-news-special-seattle-is-dying

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Just a few years ago,
-people could find rooms around old town for 8 or 15 dollars a night, now they’re gone
-people could share space in inner NE for $75 a month, now that’s gone
-people could stay with their families in pre-gentrified neighborhoods, now that’s gone

Also, drug use and mental health issues often emerge *after* people lose their housing as either coping mechanisms and/or due to lack of good health care.

It’s not as if people decide to be addicts and camp on MUP paths because it’s a charming luxurious life full of carefree whimsy and happy hallucinations.

So much of the mindset that’s expressed in these comments and elsewhere are so hateful and ignorant. There but for the grace of the power elite go I.

I regularly ride on the 205 path under Sandy and did have turn turn around and find another way 4x in the last 2 weeks. But it’s a small inconvenience. I got to go home to a warm house with a comfy bed where I could snuggle with my loved ones and a friendly cat.

When our city & state leaders stop capitulating to real estate interests (both small time flippers and big evil corporations) we might start to see some remedy here.

But until then, I hope we don’t continue to lose our humanity.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Chloe makes a comment that asks for compassion. She notes that it is a problem and is being addressed, and in factit was shortly thereafter cleaned up, just 3.5 weeks after the last clean-up. Chloe simply asks that people bear this impossible situation in mind when being outraged, not that they should ignore it.

The majority of people here, in turn, are outraged that she’s useless because she’s not helping, together with ill-informed, tired tropes about homeless people choosing to be addicts. Yep, good job internet, you’ve come through once again.

Tom
Guest
Tom

What’s happening with the city designated camping areas with bathrooms and trash cans? Seems like it has been in the works for years. Some cities are now using tuff sheds for housing in designated areas.

Meanwhile ODOT continues to put huge bolders under elevated sections of freway, so motorists don’t need to see the homeless during their commutes.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

I have seen this problem advance over a long time in our city, from a downtown drugstore delivery boy in the 1950s to a bike-path user in the present. It is much worse now than it ever has been, even as Portland has grown larger, wealthier, progressive.

There are two primary ideologies driving it. I have explained them to our Council, receiving an ignorant and patronizing response. Here I’ll not say what they are. If one wants to know one should study matters as I do, reading the New York Times and watching the PBS News Hour, both of which are in the obsessive grip of compulsively destructive ideologues. Not the only compulsively destructive ideologues, to be sure, just the ones I choose to observe and analyze, and the ones that dominate our not-so-fair city.

It is from their ideologies that we must disenthrall ourselves.

I see a solution approaching, but a century over our horizon. Presently, I am encouraged by several of the young women recently elected to our national government. They are intelligent, forthright, pragmatic. They certainly are not capitalists and do not seem to be feminists; their great concern appears to be to promote the GENERAL welfare. Promoting the GENERAL welfare is a primary statement in the preamble of our Constitution.

Meanwhile, out here in Southeast, I ride my bike everywhere I can, like Madi.

MC
Guest
MC

I have a big issue with one of Chloe’s comments, and I think it speaks to hear of our city’s inaction on this issue: “People experiencing homelessness are our neighbors and community members. ”

…many, many of them are, but not every one of them.

There are thousands who are Oregon-raised, lived in Portland for years, and deserve our compassion and sympathy. There are a myriad of reasons why a person can become homeless, and many of them are systemic problems with our society. The majority of homeless in Portland need and deserve our compassion and assistance.

But not every one. We all know that there are people who move here from other states for our free services, or the cheap drugs, or the tolerant attitude towards living out in the open. Are these people who just show up at our door, many of them drug-addicted or unable to take care of themselves, our “neighbors and community members”? I’m personally not so sure. The fact that we lump together so many different individuals under the term “homeless” obscures our ability to help those who deserve help, and hinders our ability to weed out bad apples who come here to push drugs on our vulnerable population and make fools of the taxpayers here.

I think we need to figure out a more nuanced term, other than “homeless”, to discuss these urgent issues facing our city.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Jonathan, I want to echo all of the “Don’t be so hard on yourself” comments. Yes, your video was co-opted by people who have a “What is it do you not understand about breaking the law?” attitude. But you called attention to an important situation and within days – Chloe’s condescending comment notwithstanding – the city addressed the problem. It is possible to have compassion for campers and still need a place to cycle. You have provided, and continue to provide, an important service to cyclists and we thank you!

Lance
Guest
Lance

I just have to say that as a bike rider that rides Springwater trail most weekdays, I’m always very glad that I am on a bike and can usually go swiftly past the people, and their “possessions” that are on and around the path. I’d hate to have to take the time to actually walk through the gauntlet. Also, once one gets into Gresham on Springwater trail most of the issues magically disappear. Can we learn anything from them? Maybe actually having the trails patrolled is a good idea?

2Na
Guest
2Na

Ok, I’ll be that guy in the room. And I’ll take the other side in this.

When choosing between having my pretty bike freeway (I ride the 205 path eeeevery week from Burnside to West Lynn, and dodge them just like everyone else) and having what is, essentially, the least troublesome place for them to pitch a tent (yeah, I said it) versus parks, your doorstep, in that field by your kids school, and the overpasses, then I choose for them to be largely unharassed on the Multi Use Path.

These are people trying not to die to environmental exposure or being too far from things like water and food. They’re pushed off the grid that is American Life in 2019, and they aren’t coming back. They have no credit score, no mailing address, cell phone number, drivers license and car, or email address. That grid is a one way ticket. And they are the unemployable caste.

In a way, we all did pay for a place for them. It just turns out the out of pocket/lifestyle sacrifice was on our part in the cycling community. They’re not just going to quietly toodle off into the woods and commit hari kari for society so we can wash our hands of this grim situation and stop clutching our pearls. So yeah, I choose to support the idea that this is about a more appropriate place where try to survive what became the wasteland of their lives versus my desire to have a lovely Sunday feel-good peddle session.

It’s a grimy, harsh situation. Stop pretending it’s going to gentrify itself. And maybe, just maybe, talk to some of them. Obviously, keep your wits about you. But you might be surprised how similar to you they are, and how easily you could find yourself in their shoes.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

The city says they cleaned up the path 3.5 weeks from 3/21, which puts their previous cleanup date (assuming it was on a weekday) at 2/25. Less than a week later, this is how it was described in a comment of the week here:

“On Sunday March 3 I joined the 205 bike path at Prescott, heading north to go shopping at Target by the airport. Near the Sandy underpass there was a large encampment with guys stripping bike frames. The scary part was the encampment under Sandy. Homesteaders had their belongings spread over nearly all the entire bikeway, leaving a path just barely wide enough for my bike tire and pedals. Bike frames hung overhead and I had to duck to avoid being hit by the “inventory”. People were inside the tents. Propane tanks and then pure garbage abounds.”

We know it stayed in a similar state all the way through to the 18th, when Maus’ video was shot, and then on until the 21st when the city did another cleanup. That means there was a maximum of 6 days of clean path time out of a 26-day period, ie it was trashed for about 77% of the time in the timespan that it’s been definitively within the city’s purview for cleanup and not ODOT’s. An improvement on ODOT’s track record maybe, but not something I’d want to brag about; also it’s not really fair to blame ODOT for slow response times AFTER they’re no longer the ones responsible.

Glenn the 2nd
Guest
Glenn the 2nd

Alternate title: “From Fan to Hater in 464 Words.” I’m not involved with a parasitic entity like Facebook, so I don’t know or care what happened there, but that statement is condescending as heck. Like I’m 12 and just asked her “Mom, how come there are homeless people?” That wasn’t the question.

Anyway the “homeless” “problem” isn’t really “solvable,” but this incident does prove a couple of useful things:
– bicycle traffic is not dangerous; people can even live right on a bike path
– the city responds to bad press

Don Courtney
Guest
Don Courtney

Hmmm….Jonathan is doing a good thing getting the ear of the city on this. Ms. Eudalys response is underwhelming, probably increasingly more so the closer you live to the bike path or the more you use it.

As a lawyer my observation is this: Equality before the law is apparently out of fashion. If I were to threaten someone with a lethal weapon, or participate in a roving gang with intent to steal (at 91st on a quiet cul-de-sac my car was stolen for the second time hours after retrieving it from the first theft, person id’d not prosecuted) I would be busted big time.

This population is typically not prosecuted in any meaningful way. Current thinking is that is because they have a valid excuse (hard life, addiction, background of abuse).

The issue that comes with the territory is that this is inequality of treatment is inherently divisive. It requires agreement that these are in fact valid excuses and this a deep discussion of the concept of victimhood and the nature of free will.

If you steal someone’s car, or threaten them with a knife, or stab someone, there needs to be a consequence or you and your associates will feel free to do it more often.

I used to enjoy walking down the 205 path to see all the habitat restoration work along Johnson creek. And I used to enjoy my car also before it was stolen twice in one week.

Steve
Guest
Steve

In the meantime……can’t whoever is in charge of this city at least have a few rules & enforce those rules such as no camping “directly on” the bike path. I don’t think that is being mean to the homeless, unless I’m missing something.

And can’t the city officials at least make an effort to clean up the trash around this city. I bet some bored retired people would volunteer to clean up the trash if some city official would organize it. That’s also not being mean to the homeless, unless I’m missing something again.

These 2 things should fit somebody’s job description in this city & probably every city in America. Keep the city safe & clean. You don’t have to hurt anybody to do that.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

A few ideas that could help in the short term:

1. Set up rules for the campers on the 205 and Springwater. No tents, carts, or possessions within 3 feet of the path. Post the new rules all along the right of way.

2. PPB and Multnomah County Sheriff start running motorcycle patrols along these MUPs. These officers are not there to hassle or crackdown on campers rather, to enforce the aforementioned rules and they will act as a deterrent to those that would seek to do harm, sell drugs, etc. along the paths. They just do the basic law enforcement functions done on regular streets and roads.

3. Create multiple safe camping zones around town with access to services and transit. This gets the campers out of neighborhoods and away from conflict zones. Police can better monitor/protect the homeless population and social services can be delivered more efficiently to the campers. Once 10-12 of these zones are created, funded, and staffed around the city, then camping on the MUPs, in neighborhoods, and in business districts will be outlawed.

We should make reasonable accommodations and efforts to help but, throwing our arms in the air and blaming greater forces is not helping anyone. Sadly, Eudaly’s feckless response is typical of Portland’s leaders these days. I’m shocked that she neglected to toss in The Illuminati, the Rothchilds, and Amazon.com for good measure. I have to laugh when the city council blames business and real estate developers for the problem but, they are all too happy to trumpet high wage skilled jobs moving to Portland from elsewhere (Thank you, tax incentives!) and eagerly cut ribbons for the TV cameras at new boutique hotels and luxury condo towers.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I like the idea of posting the rules in regards to proximity to the path……I’d say more like 20 feet which is just like 4 steps. Since there seems to be no solution right now, & no way to tell the struggling people from the bad people then just let them live their lives as long as they follow the rules. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hopefully there is a better solution to help those struggling & to get rid of those that are just bad people, but for now just have at least a few rules to follow.

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

As a business owner with camps barely 100 feet from her door I have learned quite a bit about homelessness in the past 5 years and one thing I can say with certainty is that if you haven’t lived on the streets you barely understand the issue. So the comments passing judgement of who is out there, how they live, and how they should behave, feels most out of touch with reality.

I’m saddened a bit by the “othering” some posts on this string exhibit. We are talking about people here! They have names, they have souls (according to my belief system), they have dreams, and they have fears too. They are no lesser (or better) than we are but unfortunately are being treated very inhumanely, both out on the streets and in some of the comments here. Yes, there are some dangerous, threatening folks living on the streets (and bike paths) but that is not the case for ALL of them. In my experience the majority are not dangerous, and in fact they too are victims of theft and violence perpetrated by the few thugs and gangs that are out there.

A few years back there was a campaign to give cyclists a face because it was theorized that would reduce the “them vs us” of motorist vs bicyclist interactions. I propose that the readers here who choose to demonize all of the campers perhaps think about how that strategy could be applied to those camping in this city. Stop and meet one or two, talk to them human to human. Listen to their stories. Put a face (or faces) on the issue.

True, multi-use paths are not the right place to set up a home BUT as stated in this article, this is a very complicated issue and getting these people stable housing or even camping locations is not easy. It’s my opinion that the government (city, state, federal) does not have the capacity to solve the problem alone. If we don’t like what’s going on we are the ones that need to take action, we can’t wait for CoP to do “something”. Until more of us step in to help, this problem will persist. There are plenty of great organizations and individuals doing just that, and some by bike I might add (eg. Street Books, Portland Street Medicine). But, we have to start by no longer stereotyping or de-humanizing the people that are out there.

jazmin
Guest
jazmin

none of the unsavory individuals i encounter staking their claims under the Steel and Burnside Bridges, by Union Station, and surrounding the sidewalks by the 7-11 on 4th come across as remotely vulnerable. i particularly do not cotton to the vulnerable tag applying to the various gatherings of scrappers who threaten me with stabbings and beatings from their territorial perspective at the 4th Ave Smartpark exit on an alarmingly regular basis. Methinks Eudaly does not actually walk the streets of Portland?

Brian
Guest
Brian

For those who are not aware, here is an idea that may interest you. It’s also a way for people to get involved to affect change in our community. https://news.streetroots.org/2019/03/29/city-needs-budget-portland-street-response

Julia Griswold
Guest
Julia Griswold

Rode the path yesterday, Sunday July 12, 2020. Burnside to Stark is the worst with needles lying directly in the path and it is rank with urine. Tents are directly covering the path and along with possessions, the trail is reduced to about 12″ wide for a bike to squeak by. Between Stark and Lents, there is broken glass in multiple areas that is unavoidable to ride across. I opted to ride in traffic on the way home as the lesser of two hazards.

taxpayer
Guest
taxpayer

In the long run, voters showed their “frustration” with Eudaly’s unacceptable response. They were “disappointed” with her “misinformation” and have no “compassion” for her loss!