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Many Turnout for Community Discussion on the Future of the Drug Free Zone

Tonight, 11/01/05, community members, city officials, public defenders and others met to discuss the future of the Prostitution Free Zone (PFZ) and the Drug Free Zones (DFZ), specifically the Beech Area. The discussion was held at Emmanuel Temple (1032 North Sumner) and facillitated by Bishop Wells and Amalia Alarcon.

Bishop Wells is from the church, Amalia is the manager of NRC-ONI (Neighborhood Resource Center-Office of Neighborhood Involvement). I learned of the discussion through my neighborhood association, and was surprised at the turnout for the discussion, especially to see Mayor Potter and Police Chief Foxworth in attendence.

The evening was prefaced by Maria Rubio, the policy manager for public safety, she began the opening remarks. She talked abstractly about the DFZ and at some point said she felt that the DFZ was "a good tool to immediately remove people" from the DFZ. After she spoke, Mayor Potter had a few brief words, declaring that he was pro-community and that the discussion tonight wasnt just about the PFZ/DFZ (i dont think he continued to state what else it was about) and that he also had issues with the current DFZ.

After Potter spoke, one of the facillitators introduced Deputy City Attorney David Woboril. Woboril described the city attorney's role by saying it "provides objective information to policy makers." Woboril was a large part of the meeting and commanded a 45 minute slot on the agenda to explain the PFZ/DFZ as it is now, a bit about its history, and what it would be if the communities and policy makers were pleased with Mayor Potters draft and the DFZ in general.

Woboril started by addressing some of the history of the DFZ, that it started and was an idea during Bud Clark time as Mayor in 1992. The original motivations for the DFZ was to curb open air drug dealing because community members saw it degrading their neighborhoods. A second reason was that the justice system was too lenient to drug offenders, in the presentation it was noted that sometimes offenders were arrested twice in one day for drug related offenses becuase they moved so quickly through the system. Woboril also noted that 14,223 city-wide residents petitioned for the DFZ in 1992. The Beech DFZ was added in 1997. And the kicker, the event that is necessary to trigger a DFZ exclusion: probable cause.

What followed was a series of graphs, the city had brought three projectors and had three screens going at once to share all of its data. It added up to being confusing and tough to follow for some parts. In one of the first graph sets, the arrests in the DFZ's (central city/old town and beech st area) were tracked for the thriteen year history. It showed drug arrests in the Beech area going down steadily from implementation to 2005. Then it graphed areas without DFZ and showed that drug arrests in those areas remained steady and more or less unfluctuating. During the Q&A a person asked if part of that reason could be the demagraphic of the Beech area changing, as more money is pumped into "revitalize" urban areas and less advantaged people are forced out of areas due to property values not drug free zones.

After more graphs and layers of statistics that I didnt know how to note, Woboril got to the proposed changes. In the changes, both the central city and beech zones would be decreased as the city felt the DFZ had been effective on the outskirts of the zones to the point where they were no longer necessary. For the PFZ, which starts at W Burnisde and goes to Sandy all the way up Sandy to 82nd and then all the way down 82nd (and Woboril noted no real change in prostitution in the prostitution free zone), the stretch of Sandy Blvd would be cut out. In the city's proposal is also a new DFZ, which would extend nearly the entire length of 82nd, from Killingsworth to Crystal Springs Blvd. (Woboril noted the complexity of 82nd, becuase the north part had crack cocaine, the middle part was ectasy (amid laughter) and the southern part was crystal meth.)

Eventually, Woboril had to present race pased graphs and statistics. He went quickly through these and I didnt adequately notate all the information. However, I did note that in the Beech DFZ, 83% (123) exclusions were issued to African Americans. 12% (18) exclusions were issued to Caucasians. In Old Town DFZ, 585 exclusions were issued to African Americans and 686 to Caucasians. I didnt have time to write the stats for that.

Then some harder details of the exclusion process. From what I understood, the stats are: 90% of the people stopped for drug related probable cause are excluded. One percent of that 90% appeal their exclusion. Out of that 1%, 74% of the people that appeal remain excluded. I could be wrong on that last part, during the Q&A one the the public defenders asked Woboril why the DFZ was necessary when the DA loses most of the DFZ related cases.

Woboril was starting to end his presentation, and did so by trying to sum up others opinions. He said the city attorneys position was that the current code (the proposal i beleive) would be constitutional. For the DA's position, he said the DA beleives the DFZ is helpful but will not stand behind it if the communites do not support it. He also stated that Portland Business Alliance had drafted a proposal for the DFZ but did not elaborate on it.

After Woboril, Police Chief Derrick Foxworth stood to say a few words. He was quoted as saying "over the years, exclusion process has been a very effective tool for us." Then the ACLU representative got up to say a few words. She was also brief. The main conern was that the DFZ was an attack on personal freedom to travel and move around public spaces. That without judicial process, a lone police officer could issue exclusions without any oversight. And that an exclusion isnt a criminal offense, but violating the exclusion is criminal trespass.

After she spoke, the Q&A session was due to begin. Before that, however, Amalia did a rough poll to see what the room was into. The room was not full but I would guess about 100 people showed up. She asked how many people came to find out a bout the DFZ, a few hands went up (1/8); she asked how many people came to support it with the amendments, again 1/8; she asked how many were there to support it , about 1/4; and then she asked how many people were there to oppose the DFZ, about half the room raised their hands now. The Q&A sessions was long and there were many good questions. I wasnt able to write many down or the answers. However I did pick up a few things.

One person, an African-American and resident within the Beech zone, had been excluded before. He raised his hand to speak out agianst the DFZ. He said that he had been harassed by the police beyond belief, that he had been arrested 122 times for violating the exclusion. He said that many of the arrests happened within blocks of his home, and that one even happened on the front steps of his own home. Criminal tresspassing on his own stoop. He said that he didnt understand how a DFZ was effective when police stopped people at will for probable cause yet the neighborhood stores still sold blunt rolling papers?

A few people noted that the DFZ's only condemend victims. That the majority of people excluded were not drug dealers but people that were either drug users or people that had paraphenlia on their person at the time. I worte donw the quote of that lady when she said that the DFZ is codemening victims becasue it is so true. This process serves not to help the people that need help, but to move problems from one place to another. Exclusion doesnt promote change, yet makes it harder for a person to see another way out.

The last question was from a young latina woman, Cassandra, she said "i dont want to live in a community where judicial process has become a priviledge." And with the DFZ, judical process is a priviledge and people of color are on the worng end of it.

If you have any complaints a bout the drug free zone, suggestions, or just want to share your opinion on them, we were told to email: mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us

Someone from the city was taking decent notes of the Q&A and said that we should visit this page to find details fo the Mayors plan and perhaps also those notes? http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/

Also, there is this past information from portland indymedia: Community discussion about future of the Drug Free Zones | Perspective on Portland streets | A Community in Flux | and the Boise Neighborhood will vote at its november meeting about the DFZ. if you are a resident of the neighborhood, please attend.


drug free zones suck 02.Nov.2005 00:08

your mom

great summary , i want to add that that no one in the room had anything good to say about ther Drug Free Zone. Everyone who spoke up from the community thought it was racist/classist or just plain unconstitutional. Also Tom Potter spent the whole evening in the front row staring at the wall instead of facing the community counting hands of support from questions and suggestions. What's up with that?

DFZ 02.Nov.2005 08:35

why

bht, Thanks for your summation on last nights meeting. They were detailed and accurate. I too was impressed with the turnout and oppostion to the DFZ. And the 45 minute presentation by the assistant DA was too long and overwhelming. However, I was pleased that the information was available for scrutinity. And what was up with Potter's lack of interest? I would have liked the administrative, law enforcement and prosecuting officials to offer more comments on the challenges. Peace/Resist and lets all demand our constitutional rights back before it too late.

Further community discussions on the Drug Free/Prostitute free Zone 03.Nov.2005 08:53

Neil

Thanks BHT for the community reporting.Just wanted to add a couple of things...

The mayors office will be sponsoring 2 more community discussions,for communities to voice ideas and concerns.1) will be in the downtown neighborhood,the 2nd) will be in outer Southeast,where the city hopes to establish another DFZ/PFZ zone along the SE 82nd corridor.The date and time of these community meetings will be available on the city website.

Also for all Boise residents and business owners,the Boise Neighborhood Association will be holding a 3rd community vote,on wether the Boise Neighborhood community does,Not support the Drug Free/Prostitute Zone for another 3 years,or to show support.For the date and time of this community meeting check out the Boise community website,www.boisevoice.org. The community meetings are open to the community at large, if you live in the immediate neighborhoods surrounding Boise please come and share your ideas and opinions.

If you would like to pick up some reading materials,prior to the Boise Community meeting, on why Portland residents should not support the DFZ/PFZ.Please stop into,The Blackrose Collective bookstore & Community freecycling Center,located at 4038 N.Mississippi Ave,between N.Shaver & N.Mason,right next door to the Mississippi Housing Cooperative.You can also pick up the latest copy of,The Portland alliance newspaper,Vol 25 No.11

Can you tell the difference between both Exclusion Zones ? 03.Nov.2005 11:04

Class-warrior

Below is a copy fo the 1859 Oregon exclusionary clause.The language has been changed a little,Now it goes under the pretence of the "Drug Free Zone/Prostitute Free Zone.But the ultimate race and class motives are the same ?

Exclusionary Clauses of the Oregon Consitution-written into the Oregon Constitution 1859

While other states had exclusion laws on the books, Oregon was the only one to write them into its consitution.

Article 1 Section 31.-White foreigners who are, or may hereafter become residents of this State shall enjoy the same rights in respect to the possession, enjoyment, and descent of property as native born citizens. And the Legislative Assembly shall have power to restrain, and regulate the immigration to this State of persons not qualified to become citizens of the United States.

Article I Section 34--There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Article I Section 35.-- No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this State, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such negroes, and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the State, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ, or harbor them. (Repealed November 3, 1926).

Article 11 Section 6.--No Negro, Chinaman, or Mulatto shall have the right of suffrage. (Repealed June28, 1927).

More Information on the Exclusion Zone 03.Nov.2005 11:59

Christopher J. O'Connor

I am the attorney who filed the last legal challenge against the Drug Free Zone Ordinance. Although I did not succeed in getting the law thrown out as unconstituional, Judge Marcus did narrow the scope of the law. The City must make some changes to the law as a result of that court decision.

However, in my personal opinion, the question is not how to fix the law, but how to get rid of it. I urge every citizen of Portland to let the mayor know that they oppose exclusion zones.

If you would like more information on the exclusion zones, the current status of the court challenges against the zones or wish to get petitions to sign to demand the city council abandon this law, please contact me at  coconnor@mpdlaw.com.

-Chris

Christopher J. O'Connor, Attorney at Law
Metropolitan Public Defender
630 S.W. Fifth Ave, Suite 500
Portland, OR 97204

Phone: 503.225.9100
Fax: 503.295.0316
TTY: 503.944.2281
Email:  coconnor@mpdlaw.com

Gentrification & Drug Free Zone hand in hand 03.Nov.2005 16:38

Class-warrior

Below is a letter from the latest issue of the Portland Alliance newspaper vol 25 No 11.

A new magazine about the Rose City was unveiled last month.PDX Magazine offers readers "where to go and what to do" in Portland. A quick read ,however,makes it clear they aren't speaking to everyone.Here's their description of gentrification on North Mississippi Avenue :
"...five years ago,there were few businesses on the strip,and it seemed to lack the potential to become a thriving oasis of urban chic that it is today. Within the course of roughly 3 years,however it has become an (sic) neighborhood where young people are taking ownership of the city by starting businesses that cater to their artistic,stylistic and cultural needs..."

What was blocking the creation of an oasis of urban chicc ? How about low income families-mostly black-being served by local businesses and churches. The to a little help from PDC and the city's runaway real estate market,however those pesky poor people are long gone. Let the triple shot,non-fat,decaf lattes flow !


One thing that is left out of this perception,is the role the Drug Free Zone/Prostitute Free Zone have also played in the displacement and gentrification process.You can follow the displacement/removal from the downtown,Pearl district,the first DFZ/PFZ,then up North to Beech,then up through Boise/Elliot.Now they want to put it into place along SE 82nd,which it just so happens is where the PDC is pumping money into.Let's see if it goes to the people that really need it,or just pushes them out further into SE ?...

community letter 14.Nov.2005 22:44

bht

heres the letter the BNA sent to city council after two meetings discussing the issue:

October 14, 2005

To the Portland Mayor and City Commissioners,

The past two months Boise has been discussing the role the Drug Free Zone (DFZ) should play in our neighborhood. During our September meeting following a presentation from Jim Hayden and Officer Brett Smith our meeting voted strongly to support the renewal of the DFZ as it currently stands. However, following a presentation Chris O'connor at our October meeting, concerns were raised in the manner in which the DFZ is implemented.

To wit, the October group strongly voted to have the following considered in the DFZ implementation and support for the DFZ:

  • Be sure that the DFZ maintains constitutional status and proper due judicial process for citations.
  • That exclusions be conviction based.
  • That DFZ be evaluated more frequently than every three, perhaps annually.
  • That proper and in-depth research with regard to impact, constitutionality, and cost be afforded in evaluating the DFZ. The Mayor and City Council should consider asking the Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute at Portland State University to research the Drug Free Zones.
  • That during the renewal periods, proper time is allowed to provide for in-depth and even-handed discussion and evaluation.
Thank you for taking seriously the implementation and effect the Drug Free Zones have.

Sincerely,

Dan Bower, Chair of the Safety Committee