Portland has many great examples of how business leaders, the nonprofit community and city officials all work together to achieve great things. As Portland swings back from the Great Recession and bustle and vibrancy return to the urban core, our community needs collaboration dedicated to keeping Portland livable amidst such rapid growth. Our collective economic strength depends on a healthy downtown as a desirable destination where people want to live, shop and do business.

Downtown Clean & Safe is one example of a great public-private partnership working toward this effort. It’s no wonder Mayor-Elect Ted Wheeler will get to know Clean & Safe during a Nov. 28 walk around downtown with the cleaning crews and security personnel.

For many years, I have had the privilege of knowing the men and women associated with Downtown Clean & Safe. From a dedicated board to a top notch staff to the cleaners and safety patrol officers who arrive every day to tend to Portland’s city streets, they are among the most dedicated groups of individuals I have ever known.

Downtown Clean & Safe was created in 1988 by the Association for Portland Progress, one of the Portland Business Alliance’s founding organizations. It was initiated by a group of concerned downtown business owners who didn’t see cleaning and safety services performed adequately by the city. Clean & Safe was formalized by city officials in 1991 as a 213-block business improvement district, governed by a board of directors and managed by the Alliance.

Private property owners and managers within the district essentially agree to “tax” themselves to pay for additional services. This includes street cleaning and safety patrols, but it also extends to marketing programs that attract shoppers and diners downtown. For example, during the holidays this group lights 750 trees downtown, they organize the PDX Pop Up Shops which showcase local makers, and they stage our city’s nationally famous holiday “yarnbombing” art installation where local knitters adorn downtown statues with homemade sweaters.

Have you ever seen those friendly people downtown wearing green “information” jackets, giving helpful recommendations and directions? They are Clean & Safe’s Sidewalk Ambassadors and they greet approximately 34,000 visitors to the city each year.

If you’ve ever noticed security officers on foot or riding a bicycle downtown, these are likely Clean & Safe officers from Portland Patrol, Inc. who work directly with the Portland Police Bureau every day to keep downtown safe. They are often the first responders to an issue or disturbance in the district. Clean & Safe also provides funding for four sworn Portland Police officers in the downtown area.

Then there are the cleaners. Since its inception, Clean & Safe contracts with nonprofit partner Central City Concern to employ formerly homeless individuals to clean downtown city streets. Since the partnership began 12 years ago, more than 500 formerly homeless people have gotten access to a paycheck through this program.

It’s striking to hear that during the past year these workers removed 29,000 graffiti tags, over 41,000 bio-hazards (you can guess what that is) and more than 471 tons of trash from downtown, the equivalent of 75 Packy the elephants! In addition, Clean & Safe estimates its cleaners will pick up over 15,000 needles in 2016 — that equals 24 Portland Buildings stacked high. Imagine for a moment what downtown might look like without these services.

Portland’s Central City attracts its share of challenges that we see every day, including a persistent crisis of homelessness, drug use, criminal activity and garbage. To manage these issues effectively, our public and private communities must continue to find ways to work together, pooling our collective resources and ideas to keep Portland vibrant and livable for everyone. This has many facets and our community has many great collaborations, but in my mind, Clean & Safe is one of the best examples of a public-private partnership that works.

Next time you’re downtown and you see a Clean & Safe cleaner, a Sidewalk Ambassador or a safety patrol officer, please join me in stopping to thank them for the work they do every day to make downtown Portland, our urban and retail core, shine.

To learn more about Downtown Clean & Safe, visit:

Jim Mark is CEO of Melvin Mark Companies

and is chair-elect of the Portland Business

Alliance board of directors. Send feedback to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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