Hales: This won’t be the last Last Thursday

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Portland Mayor Charlie Hales talked to KOIN 6 News from Last Thursday on June 27, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Alberta Street was filled with people for what some worried could be the last Last Thursday in Northeast Portland.

And Portland Mayor Charlie Hales joined them at the artsy Thursday night monthly street fair.

“I think it’s been a little rocky lately but there’s a lot of good will,” he told KOIN 6 News. “That balances the livability of the neighborhood. I think, we can do both.”

After Friends of Last Thursday bowed out of coordinating the street art fair Monday, the city of Portland took over organizing the June 27 event. But the future of the monthly fair, which takes place in northeast Portland on the Last Thursday of summer-like months, is still uncertain.

The outdoor arts festival was “getting pretty busy” as of 6 p.m. Thursday. Lots of cars were heading toward NE 15th Avenue, where the fair starts, around that time.

After the festival, plans called for a clean-up dance — and a protest organized by the former volunteers who ran Last Thursdays. The non-profit Friends of Last Thursday (FoLT) board stepped down in protest following dozens of new event-permit requirements made by the city.

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Last Thursday festivities June 27, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

The Portland mayor’s office has asked that the street fair shut down an hour earlier, bring in more volunteers and security, and provide more portable toilets — among other requests. The city has tracked dozens of complaints from Northeast Alberta neighbors about disruptions caused by Last Thursday fair goers.

“We have complaints that come into our office all summer long about urine and feces in yards and used condoms,” said Dana Haynes in the mayor’s office. “And all of that stuff comes from the neighbors and it’s very bothersome to them.”

The changes came as a result of those complaints. But, after weeks of disagreement on the city’s proposed new rules, board members stepped down.

Vendors KOIN 6 News spoke to Thursday said they believe more could have been done by the city to meet in the middle.

“I’m slightly worried with them stepping down,” said vendor Brenden Hepner, “because it’s become so much better in the last three years that it would revert — and we would lose the last three to five years of progress that FoLT helped with on Last Thursdays.”

Portland city leaders told KOIN 6 News there will still be Last Thursday events, even as soon as next month. It’s just not clear who will organize it yet.

“This is a great scene,” Hales said Thursday. “But of course it needs to be managed, and it needs be sustainable.”

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